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Want Work-Life Balance? Try Contracting

Stanford's most popular class isn’t computer science — it's about finding meaning in life and work.

Want Work-Life Balance? Try Contracting

"Designing Your Life" is a wildly popular course for Stanford juniors and seniors that gives students the perspective they need to navigate decisions about life and work post-graduation.

"It really helped me understand what the concept of vocation was,” one student said.

And for millennials (and empty nesters, restless Gen Xers, semi-retiring baby boomers, and any other advocates of work-life balance), that ‘concept of vocation’ means something more than being stuck in one place doing the same thing over and over. These ambitious individuals want to grow, learn, take on more responsibility, and bring more value to their organizations. 

At the same time, they do not want to jeopardize family, play, and community service time. People entering the workforce today possess a strong desire for a balanced and meaningful life. Forty-seven percent of millennials surveyed by The Hartford cited work-life balance as an issue of key importance to them. They value flexibility and autonomy to help them pursue these interests. And they choose location over career, and job rotation over promotions.

In MATRIX’s Tech Candidate Experience Survey, one contractor echoed the sentiments of many: “A major reason I got into contracting was to live in many places,” he said.

My perspective as both an empty nester and a contractor follows a similar thread. That transition made me focus on how my role as a parent had shaped my interests, and how this passage meant I was less needed in day-to-day parenting activities that tether many to a particular place. I decided it was time to re-evaluate how my own career was going, and what I could do to make my work count more. Specifically, how to…

  • Travel and make money at the same time. Since I work virtually, this is not as big as an obstacle as one might think.
  • Pursue new interests such as volunteering or continuing education.
  • Have the flexibility to visit with my grown-up children as much as I want.
  • Extend my career as the decision to hire contractors is easier for companies to make than a full-time commitment.

Want Work-Life Balance? Try Contracting

Contractors Get to Choose When and Where to Work

These objectives dovetail perfectly with the benefits workers find within the world of contracting – flexibility, adaptability and the chance to see (and influence) the world.

Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) estimates that in 2015, there were 44 million contingent workers in the U.S., representing 29 percent of all workers. Because SIA treats the term “contingent workforce” as synonymous with the term “gig economy,” they can also estimate that 29 percent of all workers in the US are part of the gig economy. In fact, it might surprise you to learn that Microsoft employs nearly two-thirds as many contractors as they do full-time employees. TechCrunch estimates that over 40 percent of the workforce will consist of contractors just five years from now, and more provocatively posits that sometime in the future, employees won’t even exist anymore!

Contracting gives individuals the flexibility to choose when, where, and for how long to work in one place. The money is good, too. In general, contractors will make more money than in a permanent role, as companies can compete for skilled contractors without being confined by the same burdens they have when taking on permanent staff.

Note to potential contractors: Want to kick-start your career? Speaking to an experienced recruitment professional is often the first step in working out if your skills are in demand in the market and if becoming a contractor would be beneficial to you. You can also read our Contract vs. Permanent Employment eBook to weigh the pros and cons of both sides.

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