9 to 5 Culture

New Workplace Trends: 9 to 5 is So Last Decade!

I have an old friend who works as a software engineer. He holds the same position with the same company as he did over five years ago. His salary has increased steadily each year. Coming from a traditional family where his father valued hard work ethics, integrity, and professional stubbornness, my friend was ecstatic to land his first job right out of graduate school in the Fall of 2004.

At the time, I was in my last year of college as an undergraduate. I’ll never forget the night I came home from my evening class and he told me the good news. His job had benefits, (dental and medical) 401k, a share in the company and a salary in the mid-60s. Every college grad’s dream.

He is still with this same company today. His story is becoming increasingly rare.

And this is a good thing.

Really, Mike? A Good thing?

Yes. Our economy is struggling, and workers are getting laid off at an alarming pace. People are desperate to find work. (If you are one of those people, I’ll be my friends’ position sounded pretty good, didn’t it?) It seems like we are all underemployed. But what are we really struggling to find? My friends’ work. The work of yesterday. The paid benefits, the salary, the company car and the whole shebang.

The sooner we wake up from this “dream” the better off we will be! Why?

Because 9 to 5 is Soooo Last Decade

And this is a good thing. It’s your time to shine.

What is happening is that a new, more flexible workforce is emerging. This is a workforce that is not run by the power of the corporation, or the middle manager. It isn’t run by the clock or the benefits. It’s run by you.

Your talents, skills, and abilities are valued. These talents are a piece in a large jigsaw puzzle that when put together with the talents of other individuals can make great things happen. Project work is replacing bean counting. We have computers for this now. “Pay by the project” work and “billed hours” are replacing the 40-hour workweek. And the idea of one person working in one career for his whole life is going the way of the dinosaur. And this is all great news.

It’s great because more than ever before we have the ability to grow professionally. If you are a great web designer without a full-time job and you land a project that requires some graphic design, you can either call a graphic design colleague to do that part of the work, or you can do it yourself. And as a web designer, adding graphic design to your repertoire is a very useful thing.

If you work 9 to 5, it’s very difficult to grow in this way. Try telling your manager that you want to take over his duties because you want to “grow professionally” or “learn” or “earn a bit of his income.” He’d laugh at all you all the way to the unemployment line!

The disappearing 40-hour workweek is also a good thing. Most people don’t actually work 40 hours a week. They are just scheduled to be at their desks, behind their counters, or in front of their computers for this amount of time each week. A majority of the time, workers aren’t doing anything job related. (One study suggested that the average office worker actually only puts in about 3 hours of work in a given day!)

I don’t know if this statistic is true for my friend, the software engineer, but I sure wouldn’t want to waste 47,000 hours of my life doing nothing. Human brainpower is a valuable thing. A whole lot of it is going to waste. The transition from an employee assigned to performing a task while collecting a paycheck to a self-motivated individual with talents and a skill to offer the world is an important step in professional evolution.

What to do if you Want my Friend’s Job

Instead of fretting over your lack of benefits, a decent salary, or a job, ask yourself what you are good at. What skills do you have to offer the world? Who would be able to make use of these skills? Are your skills valuable where you live?

The 9-to-5 job is slowly becoming a thing of the past, as more employers are wising up to the fact that freelancers, contract workers and home business owners can often to the same work without the benefits and the hefty salary. Even if you want this kind of job, in 10 years it may become so rare that it is more of a pipe dream.

You don’t really want a 9-to-5 job. You want to become part of the new workforce: the land of the skilled professional. You may have a lot more fun doing it, and you’ll feel valued as a citizen of the planet, not just a member of your company.

Perhaps instead of lamenting the increasing unemployment rate and the lack of “fair wages” we should embrace this brave new professional world! What do you have to offer?


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