Your Next Job: Intellectual Mercenary

Last Updated Jan 29, 2008 10:45 AM EST

As the labor shortage continues to grow in the coming decades, the very nature of work may change with it. The model of the future? Think Hollywood.

Intellectual MercenaryThat's the insight offered by Harvard Business blogger Tammy J. Erickson in her piece, Cycling: The Hollywood Approach to Talent Management. Making movies today in Tinsel Town is similar to bringing together a team on a project. Studios, which once controlled the whole enchilada, are now more like financing and distribution partners, Erickson notes. The producer pulls together the cast and crew, including a director. Once the movie is shot and distributed, the players go their separate ways to their next projects.

With the labor pool shrinking, "It is likely that some form of this model will come to many of our industries over the next decade or two," says Erickson.

This is a significant opportunity for the millions of current workers heading towards retirement age. Many of these folks will prefer to keep working post retirement, but in periods of full-time work interspersed with periods of no work. In other words, cycling.

Moving from project to project, workers will become intellectual mercenaries. But cycling takes special skills, both on the part of individuals and the businesses who will employ them

To take advantage of cycling in the future, you should start doing things today including building networks, developing a personal brand, and continuous education, she Erickson. Read her column to see the full list.

Does the idea of cycling into retirement excite you?

(Green screen image by Mark Sebastian, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.