These three words work as a descriptor for me and many others in business today. First, I’m independent. I’m not an employee. I work with others on contract or by project. I have long-time clients, but my work with them is project-based.
Second, I’m a knowledge worker. I’m paid for what I know, how I communicate, project management skills, my advice and vision. Many of my investments in time and money are to improve my knowledge and mastery so that I can then share that knowledge / mastery with clients.
I use the term professional loosely to mean anyone who is a highly skilled purveyor of knowledge-intensive services. If you are practicing the knowledge art at higher levels and as a business, you are a knowledge professional.
As an independent knowledge professional, you are on your own and you need to pay attention to current trends. If you are a technology professional, you have to be sensitive to the threat of obsolescence. You study technology and other related developments to stay competitive in your field.
We have more of these independent knowledge professionals around than ever right now. One reason is that knowledge is the coin of the realm in our post-industrial, information exploded society.
Lots of people are doing knowledge work in one capacity or another. The economic downturn and downsizing practiced by major corporations the last 20 years or so has made it harder work to stay in a full-time job — there are fewer to go around. People that do have jobs are holding on to them for dear life, creating a logjam that hinders advancement for those below them in the hierarchy.
A core part of the American Dream is to work for yourself – many of those who haven’t done it, pine for it. The most talented and optimistic, frustrated by lack of opportunity as employees, take the risk of going it alone. Some don’t have a choice.
I got off the corporate/employee merry-go-round early in 1986 and became a computer consultant. I focused on small businesses in the creative industries like graphic design, architecture, photography, printing and prepress. I was attracted to the aesthetics and creativity. That’s still my niche today. I acquired a few others along the way including consultants, psychotherapists and executive recruiters.
With this glut of independent knowledge professionals on all sides, it seems like a good idea to start blogging about what I see and am finding valuable as tools in this time of change. We need to create our own futures and I want to be a part of that creation process. I plan to write more on this topic here in the near future.
[Image: from Wired story by Daniel H. Pink: Revenge of the Right Brain, Feb 2005]