The way that our society in America is currently structured, the conventional trajectory of your life is pretty much planned out for you already: You go through a school system and learn the things that have been deemed necessary, oftentimes you then go to college and receive a degree that denotes to the world that you have learned even more and bought into the structure even more, then you go on to sit in the typical 9-to-5 job for the rest of your life, moving up the ladder as you go so that you may someday retire in the hopes of finally doing something exciting before you die (talk about a run-on sentence, am I right?!).
This description may be a little morbid, but that is what I imagine when I think of the corporate world—scenes of dark cubicles and horrifying microwave meals come to mind; a horror movie that is all too real for too many people. The thought of working in a corporate job for the rest of my life makes my stomach hurt. And I know I’m not the only one as millions of millennials–including our Editorial Director–are choosing to instead start their own companies or freelance or create any number of other careers that do not involve this structure.
The way that I have chosen to avoid the rabbit hole of the corporate world is by consulting and freelancing, at least for now.
The irony of this choice is not lost on me since I strongly resisted the idea of freelancing when I started college, even changing majors because I figured that photography would not be an ultimate career for me. Consulting/freelancing is certainly not for the faint of heart. I am working as a freelance photographer and writer, a fashion blogger, and as a consultant in digital marketing. It completely lacks structure and can be extremely stressful, but it allows for so much more freedom and excitement, two of the most important things to me.
I graduated from NYU in May and throughout my last semester sent in job application after job application, sure that with my impressive resume that I would have options. But as the months ticked down to graduation and I hadn’t heard back from most of the companies except for some telling me I was overqualified and a few automated-response “we’re sorry to inform you” emails, I started to get fed up before I even started. I had been interning in the corporate world throughout college and I worked in various capacities at both huge global companies and small startup businesses, yet the main thing I learned from all of that experience was that I would never want any of those jobs to become my career. It all felt stifling to me and though I loved some of the companies and the people that I worked with, I never felt all that attached to anything in any way that could convince me to work there for longer.
So, in reevaluating my options and where I’d had the most fun working, it became very obvious that I liked those roles that were essentially freelance and gave me the freedom to do my work as I pleased. I thought about my skills: I’m a good writer, I’ve been a photographer for years, I’m highly creative yet comfortable with business and analytics, I know a lot about social media and digital marketing, and I know a lot about fashion. While these skills might be suitable for certain roles, in my mind many of the things I’m good at are amplified when working freelance and stifled when working in a boring office. I have expertise in things like fashion, content creation, and marketing, but every person will have different areas that they excel at, so if you can find that expertise, you can likely find a way to capitalize off it. Yes, you can seriously make a career off of your expertise, so it’s definitely something to consider.
The other way to escape the corporate world, in a sense, is the entrepreneurial route. I have strongly considered starting my own business and I may still do so down the line. If you have an idea for the next big invention, that’s amazing, but you don’t have to be an Einstein to start your own business. In fact, it is often as simple as doing something better than anyone else is doing it; think Amazon revolutionizing online ordering by making shipping so easy or Netflix bringing movies and TV shows straight to you on demand. The basic services like online shopping and watching movies already existed, but these companies were able to outperform because they found a more efficient way to deliver those services. You could even do something on a more local level, like starting your own bakery because you’re passionate about making cupcakes and eclairs.
The power of entrepreneurship comes from doing your own thing and being your own boss, then often as the company gets off the ground, being the boss of other people. That’s one of the hardest added layers of starting your own business is that you will likely need to learn to be a good boss and how to handle people. If you are creatively inclined yet comfortable with business skills and you have an ability to delegate the tasks that you cannot do yourself and an openness to learn as you go, chances are you’d make a good entrepreneur.
The Trend Away from the Typical 9-to-5 Job
It has been shown that increasingly more millennials, as they enter the job market, are demanding more autonomy in their workplaces and that freelancers are actually a viable option for companies to hire and not just a cheap option. Though a typical 9-to-5 job can be a lucrative one, it can often feel monotonous, not encourage individuality, require a long commute, and have a limited workplace environment. The advantage of the millennial experience is, of course, technology, and job constraints like needing to be in an office are becoming more arbitrary. Companies are realizing the advantage of hiring freelance for tasks as needed and noticing that freelancers are often better committed to finishing the task effectively and on time since they are not comfortably padded in their role the way that many full-time employees are. If you’re already in a structured career and are considering making the switch, you may want to ask yourself some questions first to really evaluate why you are making this decision.
“…for someone restless like me…structure can be a dirty word…”
Of course, there are many other jobs and ways of making money outside of these three scenarios and for some, the structure of a 9-to-5 job is necessary and reassuring. There are so many interesting positions both at startups and at solidified brands and I would never entirely write off the possibility of working for a company if the position seemed to be the right fit. But for someone restless like me, with varied interests and a hatred of staying still for too long, structure can be a dirty word and in the workplace, the more creative and outside-the-box, the better.
Feeling inspired to get more entrepreneurial? Set aside time to be your own career coach and get those gears turning.
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