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Diane Stafford: In today's workplace, athletes aren't the only free agents

In the mid-1990s, management guru Tom Peters warned employees to develop "a brand called you" because you need a brand to carry you from job to job.

In the mid-1990s, management guru Tom Peters warned employees to develop "a brand called you" because you need a brand to carry you from job to job.

In 2002, another workplace thinker, Daniel Pink, cemented the trend with a big-picture name: "Free Agent Nation."

They forecast today's workplace reality. Temporary, freelance and contract work has encroached on the American career dream. We've been warned that the gold watch at retirement is all but dead. As the older baby boomers leave the workforce, the expectation of a lifetime job is departing with them.

Career counselors tell us to have a Plan B, to not expect that Plan A is for keeps. They say you are responsible for your career plan, that no employer has the duty or intent to pave your path. They say full-time, long-term employment isn't the wave of the future. For many, the temporary and contract wave already washed ashore.

A survey released March 5 by CareerBuilder found that jobs in temporary help services grew 57 percent from 2009 to 2014. Looking forward to 2019, CareerBuilder's economic modeling suggested 13 percent growth.

Looking at related jobs data, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found a 51.8 percent increase in temporary help employment from 2009 to 2014.

However the precise calculation was made, it's clear that you or someone in your family is increasingly likely to have temporary work experience, making it all the more likely that your job changes often and that you don't have traditional employee benefits.

That puts an even greater burden on you to communicate what you do well and to be able to see where your next opportunity might lie – before your current employment ends. And – very important – a succession of temp jobs or contract work (essentially self-employment) inflates your burden to be in charge of your own savings and retirement preparation.

That's not easy. And it's really hard in lower-wage jobs. According to CareerBuilder's new report, these occupations – which mostly pay less than $15 an hour – are expected to continue double-digit growth in temporary work: home health aides, child-care workers, cooks, substitute teachers, product demonstrators, retail salespersons, landscaping and groundskeeping workers, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, maids and housekeepers, pharmacy technicians and bakers.

Even at higher pay, temporary work is rife in these areas: computer systems analysts, accountants and auditors, management analysts, computer user support specialists, software developers and applications, customer service representatives, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, registered nurses, general maintenance and repair workers, machinists, construction laborers, secretaries and administrative assistants (except legal, medical and executive).

Are you ready to manage your own career?



To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and


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