Millennials, more so than any other age group, are positive and productive freelancers. They gladly jump into contract employment, and seem to thrive on the independence of such work. Freelancers are the fastest-growing segment in the EU labour market, and by some estimates, will account for 50% of the US & UK work forces by 2020.
Contrary to popular belief, millennials are not pursuing professions as freelancers because they think they’re special snowflakes who shouldn’t have to report to anyone. In fact, the emergence of the freelancer or contract employer closely mirrors the evolution of the distributed workforce.
It’s important for those of us – educators, parents, advisors – who work with young people to bear in mind that many of the teenagers of today will become the freelancers of tomorrow. This in turn implies that students need to be cognizant of building a dynamic personal brand, a skills-fingerprint if you will, as early as 14 or 15. Evidence of achievement (academic or otherwise), skills and interests dating back to early high school will become an important part of how employers evaluate young graduates – particularly in the case of freelance candidates.
Long gone are the days where employers only source talent from the Harvards and Oxfords, the McKinseys and Microsofts of the world. The brands of old will be replaced with the brands of new –from General Assembly to Github, from certificated MooCs to articles posted on Medium – and it will be the role of students to build a dynamic digital CV and link-driven portfolio showcasing the full range of their talents, skills and ambitions.
While existing outlets for the aggregation of such crucial brand information (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) are limited by the scope of their original intent (Facebook for social connections/sharing – LinkedIn for professional connections, and a simple post-graduate resume), one can well imagine in the future a platform that enables young people to aggregate and build upon a personal brand from 14-24, with links to social feeds, digitized credentials, content published, code written.
One popular stat that serves to contextualise just how dramatic these changes will be claims that 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. This begs an important question: how can we prepare students for a professional world that is constantly in flux?
While the responses to this important question are undoubtedly varied and the solutions complex, one thing remains clear: the ability to anticipate trends in planning a future – whether academic or professional – is crucial to enable students to take full advantage of their potential, and similarly to take full advantage of the exciting new trends and opportunities emerging across global labour markets.