As graduation commencements take place, college students today face a dilemma. They have to decide whether they wish to pursue the historical path of the 8-5 grind with the hopes of financial security in their twilight years or choose a path of entrepreneurship and be responsible for their own financial security.
Depending on the perspective of the college grad, they will either see their future as one of opportunity or of limited prospects. With workers estimated to be 47% contingent workforce — meaning a temporary worker, I believe there are many opportunities to be explored for those grads seeking employment.
Although the concept of contingent workers is not new, the massive increase in its usage is significant to consider. As a college grad, you have a fresh perspective of what people want and how you might see companies doing things differently. This is advantageous to organizations as companies attempt to reinvent themselves in order to keep up with consumer demand and trends.
Most companies are attempting to get their arms around the contingent worker process, so be patient. The dramatic rise over the past few years has gotten the attention of senior leaders in the organization.
To put it into perspective, in 2014, 34% of workers were contingent in some way and the increase in continuing to an estimated 47% by the end of 2017.
This could mean they were a temporary employee through an agency or the company, an independent contractor (freelancer) or part of a project (SOW). In my opinion, college grads have greater opportunities today than that of a generation ago — if they position themselves correctly. Here are some ways college grads can get a head-start in their career:
A temporary job or project based work is great experience to build your work profile. Google is a great example for this concept. A large percentage of their workforce is contingent for a year or two and then they move on — with Google on their resume.
Determine whether you want a career with the same company or you want to gain skills from various companies. Working for the same company year after year has its benefits and can lead into long term financial security (e.g., strong company 401(k) match, stock options, bonuses, etc.). However, gaining experience at multiple companies can expand your knowledge and understanding of the way businesses work so that you bring more value to the employer of your choice. Get clear on what is acceptable to you.
Have a goal in mind. Be realistic about the end game. Is it that you want to gain exposure to various departments over time or that you want to learn all the intricacies of a project so that you can ultimately become an expert in the field that you are most passionate about? I’ve seen some college grads expecting to be a VP in 6 months after graduation. This may not be realistic unless you are part of a start up organization. I encourage college grads to think 18-24 months out and to get clear about what they wish to contribute to an organization and what would be next for them when that time frame comes. This will give you a guidepost as you gain experience in your new career.
Bottomline, as of the date of writing this article, there are boundless opportunities for those who are well versed in the market. If you want to push the traditional boundaries of typical organizations, you have to think differently. Being a contingent worker may be well worth the time to explore.