Friends without benefits: the new reality of work

Nothing in life is forever. As a freelance writer, I’ve learned to appreciate the impermanence of life—and work—better than most.

But now, the possibility of finding viable full-time work is looking like even less than forever for everyone—not just us hip freelancers. I’ve known this for awhile now—I’ve prepared for this day since the late 1990s, when I started moonlighting as a writer for extra cash. But how ready are you for the new reality of work-life?

The Financial Times just did a piece today on how U.S. “Companies see temps as permanent solution.”

Here’s a quote from the FT article by Anthony Carnevale (great name), the director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce:

“Employers have shifted risk to employees and as many other employers [temp agencies, consultancies, outside vendors] as they can. What the system has learned to do is to be enormously more productive. If you think this is temporariness you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Gulp! Better update that LinkedIn profile.

thanks for the memories: a fog rolls in over job flexibility and security

Massachusetts has a law on the books that forbids companies from keeping legions of permanent temps on their payrolls for more than a year. Yet tons of companies still do this, even now. Many contractors work alongside their full-time colleagues, only without benefits, toiling eternally as lower class temps.

As one recruiter asked me: Why should you care? You know you’re an independent contractor. You know what you’re getting into when you agree to take a job.

Well, that’s true, but it’s easier to say and harder to do in practice after you work on site for awhile, especially when many places dangle the carrot of “possible full-time work” under your nose.

It’s also impossible, unless you’re a cyborg, to psychologically disassociate yourself from office life and still psych yourself up to do a great job anyway, even when there’s “nothing in it” over the long run for you in terms of job prospects, full-time or freelance.

By working long term on site, why should independent contractors have all the stress and none of the benefits that our full-time colleagues enjoy? Where’s the incentive to excel if you’re going to get the boot after a year anyway—with no possibility of continuing the relationship after that as an off-site independent contractor?

If American workers are (rightfully!) afraid to lose their full-time jobs, there’s no movement in the job market, creating even less workforce flexibility, mobility, and opportunity.

Is this the new, corporate version of the American Dream? Or is this just a temporary nightmare? Either way, please wake us up.


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