Bored of the corporate rat race? Dragging yourself out of bed getting more difficult each day? Game face getting rough around the edges?
Plenty of people thrive in the corporate world, but it isn’t for everyone. There never used to be much of an alternative.
Success was one-dimensional – if you aspired to “be successful” (those famous, but ambiguous last words), then the corporate world was the default place to be.
Today, that’s changing.
The Unfulfilled of Corporate Australia have more options than ever before… but is it time to make a move?
Demand is growing – and being met – for flexible working arrangements in Australia.
In fact, a Regus study found that 78% of Australian companies work more flexibly than they have previously.
It’s not just the smaller, more agile businesses either. In August this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers embraced the flexi-work trend, joining the likes of the ASX, Westpac Banking Corporation and Telstra.
But is flexi-work the right call for you?
Here are the pros:
1. You’ll Have More Freedom.
Flexibility leads to freedom. Freedom leads to regaining parts of your life which you lost.
It could mean starting work late and finishing late, so that you you can kiss the little ones goodbye at school. It could mean cutting down to 4 days per week, so that you can spend more time with your family.
It could mean condensing the same amount of hours into a four-day week, so that you maintain the same income and use the extra day to start your own business.
It could mean working from home, so that you don’t spend 8 hours per week (an entire workday!) commuting. The extra hours you save can be spent commuting to the beach.
2. You’ll Be More Productive.
The argument that flexible work increases productivity is strong, with the same Regus study finding that up to 69% of Australian businesses agree they generate more revenue by allowing flexible work.
Again, it’s a win/win: you’re happy because you feel like you’re great at your job and your boss is happy because her targets are being met. Which brings me to my next point.
3. You’ll (Probably) Be More Engaged.
Gallup’s 2013 study furnished us with some horrific statistics, finding that up to 81% of Australian professionals aren’t engaged at work.
The causes of this disconnect are complex, however there are a few smoking guns that would not escape any prudent analysis thereof.
One of the main ones, in my opinion, is the expectation to be “always-on”, which eats into other, more meaningful parts of your life. This leads to resentment, aimlessness and, finally, disengagement.
Flexible work allows you to regain control over parts of your life which matter to you which, in turn can help you enjoy work again.
Flexible working isn’t all roses, though. Here are the cons:
1. Team Cohesiveness Can Suffer.
If there are less people in the office at the same time, this can have a detrimental impact in terms of team cohesiveness, limiting the exchange of ideas and impacting team or office morale.
You’re are also likely to experience teething problems associated with coordinating projects or meetings effectively, which can make it more difficult to get things done.
2. You Could Feel Alienated.
Not everyone likes to work alone (or work less for that matter).
It’s the little things that foster a sense of inclusion – lunch with your team, ability to quickly bounce an idea off a colleague, ask your boss for advice.
While all of those are still possible with flexible working arrangements, it requires competent management, well-developed processes and necessary technology to ensure that communication gaps are minimised.
3. You Might Miss Out On That Promotion.
Flexible working is relatively new, and employers are still working out how best to accommodate it.
While most companies claim that the same career development opportunities will be presented to those who take flex work as to those who don’t, it will not hurt you to evaluate your decision to go flex in the context of your overall career strategy and your company’s strategic and political environment.
Want to be promoted to Director in the next 2 years? Is your company desperately short of talent? Does the culture remind you of the Wolf of Wall Street, even though there’s a (never used) ping-pong table in the cafeteria? Perhaps your dreams to work flexibly and have a career are not as great there as they could be elsewhere.
Up to 30% of Australians freelance, according to Elance-oDesk’s landmark survey.
In fact, Australia is the top country per capita for Elance-oDesk, with a reported 161,000 Australian businesses using the platform. The number of businesses hiring freelancers through the marketplace has grown 235% over the past three years.
They’re some impressive statistics – but statistics don’t always tell the full story.
Could you thrive as a freelancer?
On the upside:
1. Complete Control Over Your Career.
Freelancing means choosing who you work with, what you work on, and when and where you work.
You can set your own schedule with complete flexibility – lie-in and work late? Fine. A café in Bali? Fine. Like this project, but not that one? Fine.
Freelancing gives you complete freedom to build your career however you want to. The only priorities you have to cater to are your own.
2. (Possibly) More Job Security.
Freelancing has traditionally been seen as the riskier path, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
Although the early days are likely to be more insecure, you’ll soon build up a client base – which means diversifying your income stream so your income never depends on the fortunes of one company.
3. (Possibly) More Money.
Research suggests that making more money is the number one reason Australians turn towards freelancing – and you certainly can.
Freelancers set their own rates and can take on as many clients as they want.
If you’re driven and proactive you can make a fortune freelancing, and once you build up a great reputation, you can charge a premium.
On the downside:
4. You’re On Your Own.
Freelancers lack the overarching support an organisation gives you. Business development is the big one.
Your success as a freelancer will rest on how good you are at winning clients – and high paying, reliable clients at that.
It’s not just business development. Accounting, tax, marketing – if you freelance, you have to have a holistic understanding of everything that it takes to run a business. Your time isn’t just spent doing what you’re good at.
In fact, it probably works out that only 60/70% of your ‘work’ time is actually billable.
You’re on your own in the literal sense too – freelancing can be lonely! Coming from an often vibrant, busy office and setting up on your own can be a real shock to the system.
Plus, freelancing means you don’t get any benefits. Being sick isn’t any fun at the best of times, but it’s even less fun when you’re not getting paid sick leave and monthly overheads are looming.
5. Less Job Security (Especially In The Short Term).
Nothing is guaranteed as a freelancer. If you’re a traditional employee, you’re more immune to changing market conditions.
If work levels fluctuate enough a company might make redundancies, but small fluctuations aren’t reflected in your salary.
As a freelancer, you’ve beholden to the market much more. If you can’t find work to do, you’re not getting paid – full stop. The idea of inconsistent income puts many people off freelancing altogether.
6. Less Money (Also More Likely In The Short Term).
In correlation with the point above, if you don’t secure good clients you won’t make good money.
Many freelancers also lack confidence setting and negotiating rates, which can limit your earning potential even if you’ve got a thriving client base.
I frequently get asked for advice on negotiating a salary package – from manager to executive level, it’s a very real concern people have.
Multiply this anxiety by the number of clients a freelancer has to negotiate with, and it’s clear how easily lack of confidence can hold you back.
Working For A Startup
The Australian startup economy is set to contribute over $100Bn to GDP by 2033.
There is no shortage of startup success stories, and everyone believes they can be the next big thing, but .. objectively, most startups fail.
Could the startup world be for you?
Here are the positives:
1. Building Something You Believe In.
You wouldn’t join a start-up if you didn’t believe in the premise.
That’s (ideally) the foundation – each team member is there, putting in the blood, sweat and tears, because they all believe that they’re contributing a small, yet meaningful part to a larger picture that they care about.
A job becomes less of a job when it’s underpinned by that belief. It becomes a purpose and a meaningful way to spend your days – and that’s a huge pull for most people.
Working in a startup means a smaller, more agile team.
It means less red tape, and more getting things done. If you’re frustrated with big-company bureaucracy, a startup can provide the perfect counterpoint.
Startups are intense, and tend to foster a real sense of in-it-togetherness. Teams are tight-knit, and the working environment collaborative, fluid and inclusive. Innovation and ideas are at the heart of the startup culture, and that can be incredibly alluring.
3. Huge Opportunity.
Working with a startup offers some huge opportunities – both in terms of developing your own skills, experience and network and in financial terms.
The multitasking nature and flat structure of most startups means you’ll have an opportunity to develop huge volumes of knowledge and skills in a relatively short period of time; you’ll also enjoy a lot of face-time with founders and industry decision makers.
Working for a startup can be a great way to shave a few years off your own professional development curve.
If the startup is successful, financial rewards can be huge too. In the last few years Silicon Valley IPOs (Twitter, Box, Facebook, etc) have produced a very large number of millionaires.
However, there are big negatives, too:
4. Brutal Work.
Working for a startup isn’t the easy option. You’ll work brutal hours – maybe 12, 14 hours a day. Weekends are not necessarily yours, either.
It’s high pressure and fast-paced, and you very rarely get to clock-off when you want to. It’s about racing to build something you believe will be successful, and the pursuit of that success will see you give everything.
It’s also chaotic. Your role will rarely be well defined and you’ll need to wear many hats – a startup is not the place for that’s-not-my-jobbers.
Most successful startups have a culture that can be likened to a football team – you’re training, competing and leading – all at the same time – and you need to be prepared for that.
5. Being Underpaid (Compared With Corporate Salaries).
Not only will you be working long hours, you’ll often be underpaid for those hours.
Startups are notoriously strapped for cash, and big salaries – at least in the first 3-5 years – just aren’t feasible.
Many startups offer an equity stake to compensate for a low salary – but this carrot is only a carrot if the company does make it big.
Add into the mix the much-quoted fact that 90% of startups fail, it’s safe to say that most people don’t join a start-up just for the money.
6. Lack Of Security.
Today’s Facebook is tomorrow’s MySpace in the startup world. Big dreams don’t often translate into big realities.
In other words, things change, and they change quickly – often for reasons completely out of your control.
Your job is on the line, constantly. Start-ups are much more vulnerable to changing market conditions than big companies are, which means your role is vulnerable, too.
If job security is your thing, the startup world probably isn’t for you.
Key Point To Remember:
The takeaway is that there are pros and cons to everything.
How you weight them will depend on your priorities – maybe control over your time is more important to you than having leave entitlements and employer-paid superannuation.
Maybe you’re willing to sacrifice job security for the chance to earn a higher paycheque.
Wherever your priorities lie, the important thing is that there are so many more options out there than there’ve been before. There’s no excuse to settle for a job that doesn’t meet your needs, whatever those needs are.
Irene McConnell is the founder of Arielle Careers, Australia’s sole digital agency dedicated to branding executives and their leadership teams. Arielle specialises in resume writing, LinkedIn profile writing and online influence management.
Offering a portfolio of products born from our deep understanding of the global talent market overlaid with forward-thinking and reinvented digital marketing capabilities, a passion for words and their ability to capture attention, Arielle processes are tailored to work within executives’ busy schedules, delivering bespoke, painless and professional service, and individualised products that garner results, quickly. Arielle strive to produce engaging and impactful human experiences.