Elance CEO: Be a Business of One
What's the most important skill for young people to have to manage their careers in the coming decades? According to Elance CEO Fabio Rosati, it's not creating a polished resume or nailing the dreaded "greatest-weaknesses" interview question.
As the head of one of the biggest online labor platforms matching solo professionals with businesses for project-based work, Rosati certainly has an interest in predicting that the future includes a lot more independent workers, but he also makes a compelling case that he has economic reality on his side.
"What caused e-commerce?" he asked rhetorically in an interview. "Simply that e-commerce started to be more effective in some categories than regular commerce, and I think that's exactly what's happening in the world of work. Businesses that use the flexible-work model have distinct advantages over businesses that don't."
The reality that more and more of us will be working independently in the future isn't without its issues (like increased cross-border competition and the provisioning of benefits like health insurance), but for entrepreneurial-minded young people, this shift is great news. That includes, Rosati says, his own kids:
The young workforce has a huge desire to take control of their careers. They want their independence. I have four children. I watch their aspirations and what they want to do. None of them wants to have a lifetime career in a big corporation, and I think that is a reality that is also contributing to this [ework] model.
Some of the emerging technologies like mobile app development, Facebook and Twitter integration, and WordPress development are typically overwhelming younger software developers, who are picking up and learning how to code very early on, often times in high school. They are starting to deliver their services instead of working at the pub, instead of busing tables, instead of babysitting. In fact, I've heard one saying that Elancing is the new babysitting, and I think that sums it up for young people.
But just because the world is moving away from stashing every talented young person in a corporate cubicle for decades, doesn’t mean that the switch over is going to be entirely smooth, according to Rosati. Young people looking forward to an independent career need to shift their thinking to prepare, he says:
When you are starting out in your career, you should absolutely begin to think of yourself as a business of one. If you decide that you are about having an independent career, that means you have to find work for yourself, deliver, get paid for it, and be your own advocate. You need to be able to maybe start working initially at a low hourly rate, but a year or two later give yourself a raise.
It changes the model. You are now in charge of your career. You get to choose which skills you are going to develop. You get to choose which clients you're going to work for, how many hours a week and at what time of the day, and you also get to choose how much money you get paid per hour. I think that there's going to be a lot more education and a lot more learning around this topic that needs to happen.
But Rosati isn’t entirely disappointed with the efforts of educators to adjust to this new model of work, at least in some geographic areas like Silicon Valley, which Rosati calls home.
"I can tell you from watching my kids and talking to a lot of young people that depending on where they are, some have the opportunity that they need to learn how to be independent early on," he says. How so?
At least where I live that kids are trying to start businesses on their own and I notice that some school are introducing classes that are designed to give very current skill sets, so the curriculum from high school to college is evolving. It appears to me that there are a lot more courses that give you viable skills if you know to find them.
Do you feel young people are giving enough support in preparing to be a "business of one?"
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.