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Changing nature of jobs: Employees vs Freelance Entrepreneurs

Anita Joseph*

 

A closer look at the emerging knowledge economy and technology-driven organizations and the way they function gives us an impression that a scenario where people are being regularly hired for permanent job positions are slowly and gradually getting outdated. More entrepreneurs and freelancers are emerging, observes Anita Joseph

Are there employees anymore? Are we witnessing the death of a traditional understanding of a job relationship where workers and their masters or the so called employers are changing?A closer look at the emerging knowledge economy and technology-driven organizations and the way they function gives us an impression that a scenario where people are being regularly hired for permanent job positions are slowly and gradually getting outdated. It may not vanish completely but more clearly the trend is that of more and more outsourcing of jobs and work to freelancers. More entrepreneurs and freelancers are emerging. Or is it that GEN Z prefers to be freelancers and be their own masters?

 Though the trend may be of reduced hiring, GEN Z and GEN Y are still looking for jobs. But jobs are much less today and it is shrinking more rapidly than any time we can remember. Chats and discussions with a few job aspirants, HR consultants, career counselors and economists bring forth interesting perspectives on the current trends, future possibilities and lessons that each one of us can focus on.

Geetanjali Iyer is not a fresher. After 12 years of working in a private financial sector company, today she is jobless for many reasons. She is unable to find a job that suits her requirements and needs. She says finding a job has become a job in itself. She is not alone in saying this. Aditi an MBA graduate from India, who was working in a corporate house in Banglore was lured by MiddlEast tax free economies. After her wedding, she decided to join her husband who is a civil engineer in the Middle East. Last year, Aditi’s husband lost his job and ever since then he is in search of a job but in vain. Aditi along with her husband was fully involved in sending CVs, networking with probable employers in all possible social media sites and job portals but in vain.

Are there employees anymore? Are we witnessing the death of a traditional understanding of a job relationship where workers and their masters or the so called employers are changing?A closer look at the emerging knowledge economy and technology driven organizations and the way they function gives us an impression that a scenario where people are being regularly hired for permanent job positions are slowly and gradually getting outdated. It may not vanish completely but more clearly the trend is that of more and more outsourcing of jobs and work to freelancers. More entrepreneurs and freelancers are emerging. Or is it that GEN Z prefers to be freelancers and be their own masters?

“Every day, employment seekers diligently send out thousands of applications, yet doors remain stubbornly shut, recruiters always find someone better, and painstakingly acquired skills and experience suddenly become strangers”, says Aditi.

If in the earlier days fresh graduates and beginners found it difficult to secure jobs, today, the experienced ones find it equally arduous to secure jobs and further their career. Social media sites these days are replete with jobseekers desperately calling out to recruiters to help them land a job, or refer them to someone else. “I have only a few days left before I exit,” “Please help, I have a family,” “I remain hopeful and optimistic” – these are but a few of the many voices crying out to be heard.

A recent ILO report Global Commission on the Future of Work says, ‘two-thirds of jobs are susceptible to automation. Though technological advances – artificial intelligence, automation and robotics – can create new jobs, but those who lose their jobs in this transition may be the least equipped to seize the new opportunities. Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow and newly-acquired skills may quickly become obsolete’. Its indeed a real challenge and the reports’ observations are true to many affected. Those who were in well paying jobs suddenly loses it and one is extremely illequipeed to face the scenario. No skills to face the market needs. And no idea what course to be pursued. And even nobody to guide how to face the challenge.

It would be interesting for the readers to know about this real story of a friend who recently contemplated suicide, because he had been searching for a job for the last six months and not received even a single phone call. An MBA with a specialization in Finance, he lost his job suddenly and unexpectedly, just as he was building up his family and settling down in a foreign country. The day he called and told me the news, he didn’t seem unduly worried, neither did I. “Don’t worry, with your qualifications and experience, that dream job is just a few steps away,” I said, and he agreed. The next few months were sheer torture, as he kept applying for jobs, got turned down, or his phone calls to potential recruiters went unanswered. His despair grew, particularly since he had two lovely daughters and a qualified but unemployed wife to look after. Finally, after six months of dark desperation, knocking on every possible door and pleading for a word of recommendation in the right places, he decided to end his life. How he did it and how we managed to save him in the nick of time is another story, but his travails are familiar to each and every one of us hunting for a source of income to sustain ourselves and our families.

So why are jobs so impossible to secure? If the past it was difficult, today, a comfortable job has become a catch beyond our dreams. As a journalist, I have been fortunate to speak to a few recruiters to find out why this was so, and collated a few of the responses to solve the mystery, at least for my satisfaction.24

“The market is extremely competitive,” said Janice Short, a senior recruiter. “There are more candidates than jobs, and so the process of shortlisting and arriving at the perfect candidate can take months,” she added. According to Sakshi Goel, another recruiter, almost everyone applying to a certain job will have the same skill sets, so the onus falls on the recruiter to shortlist a handful of potential candidates and finally zero-in on one. “It is not possible to please everyone,” she said, matter-of-factly. “If one door closes, try another one.”

“Yes, but how many?” asks Adarsh a job seeker. “Every door we knock seems to have already opened to someone else. When will we arrive at our own door?”

“The answer to that lies beyond a cleverly designed CV,” says Short. “The trick is to market oneself so that one stands out from the crowd.” “This is where most applicants fall short. What they fail to realize is that their skills or qualifications are no longer unique. There are thousands of applicants with the same degree, the same specialization and the same or more, experience. So, saying that I’m qualified makes no sense today. How does your skill stand out from the rest? That’s what counts.”

Interestingly, Tarun Wadhwa, a keen observer of the global jobs landscape offers a similar but different, take. “The job scene is rapidly changing and new paradigms are emerging. Skill requirements vary with the changing times and market requirements. For instance, highly specialized IT and technology jobs such as Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Security are gaining traction at the moment and people are acquiring skills in these areas. But when new technology emerges, old skills become outdated. So someone studying for a certain skill may find himself completely out of the race by the time he’s ready to apply for a job. Or someone already in a job will find himself out of depths with the new skill requirements by the time he is ready to change.”

His explanation can be applied to other sectors as well. In the media for instance, print is arguably dying out, to be replaced by digital technology. But today, even digital journalism is acquiring new perspectives and ramifications, so much so that a CV of a senior journalist ‘familiar’ with digital media is no longer ‘in’.

A fresh journalism graduate with skills in social media content management, data analysis and online marketing tools could stand a better chance of landing a job. “Then again, how many of them and for how long?” Goel asks. “These tools are already making way for newer options.”

The argument could go on and on, but the point is clear: No one can be blamed-recruiters or jobseekers. Each one is struggling in a job landscape that is brutal, unrelenting and changing in the blink of an eye. Skill updation and self promotion seem to be the only way out, and no one can tell how tomorrow is going to be. So make the most of today, Good Luck!

 

 

*Anita Joseph is a journalist, writer, blogger and editor based in the UAE. She is also an English language trainer, for which she is certified by Cambridge University

 

Global SME News Vol. 12 No. 1 & 2

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