Turning the page (and embracing the future)

I’m officially a free agent. The job that I poured my heart into for just short of six years (August 7 would have been anniversary #6) ended yesterday at 5:00 pm.

This transition has been in the works for awhile; yesterday was just one more step in that process. First, the governor began railing against the four LWIBs (my employer) threatening to phase them out by June 30 (this posturing began last September). By March of this year, my hours with the Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board had been reduced from 40 to 20. When I walked out the door of the Lewiston CareerCenter last night at 5:15, it was just another step along the reinvention path.

Since March, half of my income has been generated by entrepreneurial activity, contracting my skills out to other agencies and organizations. Part of this was pure economic survival; another aspect of this new phase was accepting that this is probably what the next stage of the Jim Baumer Experience is going to look like. Perhaps not all of my income will be from  independent work—maybe a portion of my time will be structured more conventionally—but as Daniel Pink laid out back in 2001, when he wrote Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, the nature of work in America continues to evolve. Fighting it means that you are waging a battle you just are not going to win.

Our economy continues lumbering along—it too is in transition. In Maine, much of our culture of work still seems rooted in 1968, rather than 2012. We’re not a resource-based state churning out paper and paper products, or harvesting natural resources like lobster and potatoes any longer. If I approach my next assignment and employment search with the wrong mindset and orientation, I’m doomed to fail. Approaching economic growth with the wrong orientation is also doomed to failure.

Over the past 16 weeks, I aggressively sought out and landed two beneficial assignments. One of them was with Auburn Public Library, assisting current staff with a project designed to raise awareness of the library as a hub for small business owners and entrepreneurs. One of the outcomes involved organizing a public event highlighting these resources, as well as pulling the community’s innovators and entrepreneurs together. Our Entrepreneurs’ Extravaganza took place on Tuesday night.

Nearly 40 people turned out to network, attend one of two workshops (I led one on marketing your small business, which included integrating social media into your marketing mix), and hear Maine entrepreneurial guru and innovator, Don Gooding, as he delivered our keynote.

This was a successful event. I hope it’s the beginning of many similar events for Lewiston-Auburn. There are pockets of entrepreneurial activity and advocacy across the state and connecting these hubs is an important part of economic growth and development for our state.

One thing that Gooding mentioned in his keynote was that since 1980, nearly 100 percent of the net growth in new jobs has come from small businesses (employing fewer than 5 people) and entrepreneurs starting their own businesses. This intrigues me. If this is true, and the data supports it, why are we still focused on attracting large employers and orienting our economic growth around them? They are no longer engines of economic vitality. Remember I mentioned acting like it was still 1968, earlier?

So how does this tie into my own situation?

Being innovative, focused on my own personal toolkit of skills and core competencies is where my next employment adventure lies. I truly believe this. I’ve already embraced what Pink and many others have been writing and talking about since the first days of the new century.

We’ve entered the second decade of that century and change rolls on, unabated.

I’m prepared for free agency. How are you doing in that department?


2 thoughts on “Turning the page (and embracing the future)

  1. I believe you and others just like you Jim are part of a new collective force to bring our nation back to its roots of entrepreneurship. It’s how our country was built but after the industrial revolution the definition and goals of business in America began to change and has brought us to where we are today…corporate giants with big profit goals and no social consciousness. I applaud you and others like you who are pushing the rock off the hill. We will get there!

  2. Thanks, Susan; I appreciate your comment and you are very generous. I’m trying to look to people like Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, and others as models and sages as I figure out what my next employment adventure is going to be.

    There are those days when I ask myself, “are you crazy?” Those days don’t happen often, but there is a sense of working without a net at times.

    I do think that entrepreneurship is essential as we move forward and try to forge a new economy, perhaps one more rooted in local and regional commerce, and less focused on global markets.

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