Did you know there are over 35 million free agents in the United States? This includes soloists, temps, and micro-businesses. Very similar to the Hollywood model, in which the studio (the client) engages a producer (the contractor) who in turn identifies a director, screenwriter, as well as on and off screen talent (independent contributors) for a specific, often fixed-bid contract, in the next decade, most workers will be free agents offering their business relationships, knowledge, talent and skills on a project-by-project basis. In order to stay marketable, they will become less job-focused and more business relationship and specific skills-focused.

Geographic proximity and in-person meetings will give way to online social networks and mass collaboration regardless of the origin. Warren Bennis, author and distinguished business professor at the University of Southern California, once said, “The factory of the future will have only two employees –a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog and the dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

In any economy you must ensure that you contribute more than you cost. Being responsible and doing good work is table stakes. Sticking around for a long time does not in fact make you worth more to the organization. Experience may count, but only if it makes you more valuable to your employer in a rapidly evolutionary market. Your business relationships continue to remain your biggest asset.

Add value now and do not confuse longevity with loyalty. Only your contribution counts – not in hours, years or how busy you are – but in performance. Your unique value-add is more important than your 10-years of good intentions or activity level. In business relationships, performance trumps all.

Prove your worth to the organization in a quantifiable manner by truly making a difference and adding substantial value to every interaction. Create a sense of grave loss if you were to leave and your will create a quantifiable and strategic Return on Impact.

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