Or. . .Why I Choose to Work in the 1099 World.

This piece from the excellent blog Heart, Mind and Code tells why.  Companies hit rough spots all the time, layoff notices come without advance notice sometimes (to be sure, it happens in the contracting and freelancing world, but if you have enough work in the pipeline, you might have something to catch you and keep the lights on).

I would not go as far as to say loyalty to a corporation is sick, but it is misplaced.  Gone are the days when someone can work for an organization for 30 years and retire with a gold watch.  Nowadays, a company is lucky to hold onto someone for three years at the most.  Those people are the ones who look out for themselves, get the training they need to keep their skills sharp or add to their skillset.  The drawback?  The company’s not loyal to you, either.  It becomes a standoff.

Six years ago I joined the contractor/freelancer life after the company where I was working underwent an uncomfortable change.  There was a nasty proxy shareholder fight going on with the parent company.  Our company and our “big sister company” (it owned us but we were both owned by a larger organization) had been working for a few years to merge our identities.  The team on which I worked reported to a manager at the big sister company.  She was the best I manager I’d ever had.  Supportive and friendly and nurturing – and stern when she needed to be – I did anything she asked.  Under her I learned how to use Adobe Captivate.  We wanted to add training videos to our arsenal of skills available to the rest of the company.  I convinced her that good voice-over narration helps people learn, so she bought the team a small mixing board, a microphone, and a copy of Adobe Audition.  Work was good and fun and plentiful.

Then the parent company took itself private to avoid the proxy fight.  To flatten its structure, they split us off from our big sister company.  Suddenly, I no longer reported to my manager.  No transition, no transfer of duties and files, nothing but an abrupt break.  New boss popped his head into my cubicle that afternoon and said, “We’re no longer going to focus on user guides.  You guys will all be business analysts.”

I said I’m not a business analyst.

“We’ll talk about all of this in a meeting.”

A contract opportunity to develop tutorials in Captivate opened up.  I applied, interviewed, and accepted the job within one week of the split.

During my exit interview, the HR manager asked why I was leaving.  I said because I was torn from my manager and was going to be put in a role for which I was not qualified.  She replied with something about learning new skills and growing.  I said, but you can’t use a fork to drive screws.

Yes, there have been scary phases over the past six years.  Chances are I would have been laid off from that company anyway.  Or fired.  Regardless, I know that severance runs out, unemployment sucks, and all the money in the world can’t surpass the demoralization you feel after being laid off or fired.

Loyalty to a company is no guarantee of anything.  As Clint Eastwood’s character said in The Rookie:  If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.

(h/t:  Jay Garmon)