free agent

You are a free agent. Get used to it.

Not realizing that you, me, and every other IT pro is a free agent can dramatically slow down your career progression. Here’s why and what you can do about it.

free a·gent

noun

1. a person who does not have any commitments that restrict their actions.

We all need to rid ourselves of the notion that companies somehow owe us. Anything. Whether you work for yourself or for a company, you are a free agent.

Think about this for a moment: Why do you go to work for a company? To make money, grow your skills, etc, right? And why does a company hire you? Not because you need a job, but because they need you. To do the work.

Long gone are the days where a company could give you work from the cradle to the grave. You’re very unlikely to work for your current shop for more than 5-10 years. Sure, there are outliers, but in reality:

  • businesses change too much
  • technology moves too fast
  • most people just aren’t capable of working in different enough roles for 30 years to want to stay.

Can a front-line auto worker make his way to be president of that company one day? Probably not. Why? Because assembling cars has little to do with running a large manufacturing organization. The skills needed for each are just too disparate. Does it happen? Maybe in smaller companies, but that is the exception- and a rare one at that.

I work in a SaaS shop right now. Can I work my way up to be the president? Maybe- but not likely at this company. Did the president (or Managing Director in my case) start at this company? No- he started as a programmer at some shop when I was still in diapers.

Your company doesn’t owe you

You are a free agent. Sure, your company provides you with a computer, a phone and an office, but you’re really in business for yourself- and you have one customer. Free agents don’t owe anyone, but they also aren’t tied to anyone.

Does your company offer you benefits like insurance, training, and time off? Great! Do they do that to be nice?

NO. They do it to attract good workers and (try to) keep them.

You don’t owe your company

The same way, you are not responsible to stay at your company for your entire working life. They are responsible for getting people and replacing those people when they move on. Is it your fault if the company is mismanaged and goes out of business?

NO. You weren’t running the place. They told you what to buy and you clicked the mouse.

Do you work there so the shareholders can make money?

No! You do it because you need to make money to fund your lifestyle.

Working at a company is a trade-off. You give them completed work and you fix problems for them. They compensate you for your time. They can fire you any time (in most places) and you can quit any time.

What you should do about it

You must jump in the driver’s seat for your IT career to keep it moving.

You are a free agent. You are responsible, but you don’t owe anyone.

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