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Freelancing 'Til You Drop

Does anyone work at companies anymore? It's not clear. Going strictly by anecdotal data and an endless stream of recent emails, it appears that every third or fourth person over the age of 19 is some type of consultant. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm a consultant (although whether I'd want my son or daughter to marry one is another subject). But it feels a bit crowded suddenly, with uncertain boundaries, kind of like a hot tub after the neighbors drop by and the water becomes tepid and brackish.

If there was a bona fide workforce trend sweeping the country -- one similar to the great migration from rural to industrial enterprise that took place a century ago -- a trend whereby we'd abandon legacy organizational design methods and move towards a more cost-effective pay-per-play model, let's say, I'd totally get that. (We do see it happening here and there on wobbly baby steps with mixed results.) What I'm referring to, though, is not lean or virtual teams aggregated under a single banner and dedicated to common goals, where you outsource IT, maybe, or HR. I'm talking about the tens of thousands (possibly millions) of people who are now available to advise you on anything from creating and marketing your "personal brand" to navigating social media to learning how to not roll your eyes when employees ask for a raise. My favorite, of course, is the high-profile intuitive who for a mere ten grand month will tell you whether your strategies "feel" right: The $10,000-a-Month Psychic
At the bottom of a desk drawer in my office is a business card that reads, "Waiter/Consultant". And why not? What have those big corporations done for us lately? Perhaps very soon in this economically ravaged, post-apocalyptic era we'll all wind up joining little bands of nomadic consultants, bartering with other tribes for the necessities of life as we drift without compass in search of physical and spiritual sustenance: Mad Max2: The Road Warrior
The sub-specialty that truly amazes me is executive coaches. Would someone please do a quick DNA check on these individuals? Are they highly experienced, savvy former captains of industry who decided to share their career insights with the rest of humanity out of sheer love for the capitalist system? Have they indeed spent the better part of their professional lives observing, parsing and categorizing executive behaviors --documenting with painful precision what works and what doesn't -- presumably as part of a well-known group like McKinsey or PDI? Are they former instructors at the Harvard or Wharton school of business? Are they available for the occasional landscaping project?

Even more perplexing is this: When did every living executive get diagnosed as being in critical need of coaching? I missed that memo. And how did all these dysfunctional leaders manage to fool so many people for so long? How were they able to last as much as fifteen minutes given the extreme darkness that surrounds them as they stumble cluelessly through their surrealistic dream worlds?

There are coaches to help you, as a manager, communicate more effectively. Coaches can unlock and develop your Emotional Intelligence, which apparently is now a must, gracious living-wise. There are coaches who will teach you how to increase the productivity of your employees, how to figure out what role suits you best, how to identify interpersonal issues from your past that might be interfering with your management style, how to get along with an irrational boss (he needs some serious coaching, too) and how to build more loyal and effective teams. Say...how did you ever get hired in the first place, I wonder? We'll have to assume your uncle owns the company. Or that you slept your way to the top. Probably both.

When your coaching regimen is complete, you may realize that management is not really your thing. Possibly you'll be honest enough to admit to yourself and others that you're not cut out for corporate life after all. Chances are then you'll discover a whole new career path, one that allows you the freedom and autonomy you never had by not tying you down to arbitrary goals and rigid objectives. I know! You can become a consultant.