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We Are Never Unemployed

November 7, 2013

Rodney! Good to see you. I heard you left Microsoft. What are you doing now?

Hey Doug. I’m doing independent consulting.

Rodney, none of us are EVER unemployed, we just become independent consultants.

That conversation happened nearly 10 years ago at Brainshare in Salt Lake City. I’ve often reflected on it. The meaning of my friend’s words have changed over the last decade. At least they have for me. At the time I think Doug was ribbing me about being unemployed and finding a different word for it. Perhaps he thought I was clinging to the idea of “independent consulting” because I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t have a job. Ten years ago, Doug might have been right.

There’s an adage in business

The best way to get a job is to already have a job.

Hiring managers tend to bias in favor of people who are currently working. Maybe, it’s that if someone else thinks you are a valuable employee we will too. Or maybe it’s simply a case of “If you can’t work hard enough to get a job somewhere, we don’t want to be the place you start.” I honestly don’t know. But, most people I know will go to great lengths to look like they are employed. And I put myself in that category. There’s always something you can do. I wrote a few weeks ago about The Busboy And The Gardner Are Doing Just Fine. Even if the only job you can find is mowing lawns, it’s good to get up, get out and do something.

So, maybe that’s why we never say we are unemployed. The IT field is unique in that you can have senior, experienced guys who work as contractors. It means that they come and go. Sometimes they are working, sometimes they are waiting. I’ve said before that consulting is like Feasting On Brownies. . .Every Three Weeks. For me, writing has always been the constant when things around any change. Writing (Running Away From The Writer) is always in demand, because if you don’t get anyone to pay you to write, you can always write a book. IT workers are resilient that way.

And then a few weeks ago, I had another thought about my friend Doug’s comment. Maybe it’s not a matter of being embarrassed. Maybe it’s not about being resilient. Maybe instead, it’s a matter of craving independence. As a freelance consultant, you don’t have a boss. You end up having multiple. But, while any one of them can fire you, that one firing doesn’t necessarily affect the other jobs and bosses. There is a great freedom in being independent. There’s also a lot of fear and trepidation. But, if you truly embrace independence, you really are never unemployed, because every day you are working. You might only get paid every three weeks, or three months, but you are certainly working.

No, we are never unemployed. We are just independent consultants.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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