By now just about everyone understands that lifetime employment, with the same organization, is a thing of the past. It may still happen in a very small number of cases, but the majority of workers (of whatever color collar), either out of necessity, or by choice, will wind up working for many employers over their lifetime. Whether they are employed as permanent employees (whatever that means nowadays) or freelance consultants will make little difference.
One thing is certain; top talent will continue to insist on pay for performance at top market rates. They will also be in a position to negotiate more vacation, flexible hours, and anything else that the current market will bear. If organizations insist on playing the fool’s game of squeezing their best talent financially, the moment things turn a little tough economically; they will be rewarded with mass exodus when the economy improves. You reap what you sow.
Did anybody think it would be just the people who were downsized who would start thinking like free agents? This is capitalism. If you create a free market for anything, including talent, the people with the most value to sell are going to leverage it for everything it’s worth. And that’s what’s happening. The most valuable people are leveraging their talent in the marketplace for everything it’s worth. Success now is defined by the open market, and that means that the sky is the limit. No single organizational hierarchy puts a cap on your potential. Go wherever opportunity takes you. That is the essence of the free-agent mind-set.
Of course it is prudent to point out that free agency is not without risks. You may have to accept lower market rates and/or less work whenever economic conditions dictate. It is not all upside by any stretch of the imagination. However, even in a bad employment market, free agents tend to have distinct advantages. Since they often have better skills, and are economically motivated to keep them honed, they remain aggressive competitors in good markets as well as bad.