Life hacks: How to future-proof your careerBy Staff Writer 15 June 2022 | Categories: Outdoor
Graduates and young professionals today have the potential to enjoy more career flexibility and choice than ever before, thanks to a rising trend for remote and project-based work. Global enterprises are seeking out skills from around the world for strategy, management and implementation roles, meaning freelance professionals can gain experience across a range of exciting projects and work for companies around the world – without leaving home. But to benefit from these exciting new options they need a strategic game plan that prepares them for a new world of freelance work.
So says Johann van Niekerk, CEO and MD of Africa at Outsized, a leading talent on-demand platform that matches independent consultants and professional freelancers to the financial services and management consulting sectors across Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Van Niekerk notes that the world of work has changed dramatically: young professionals no longer expect a lifelong career with a single employer. “Generation Z is looking for more flexibility and choice in their professional careers, and at the same time, major enterprises are increasingly looking to harness expertise as and when they need it.”
This means there are more opportunities for professionals to choose what work they do, when they do it, and even where they do it.
Working as a freelancer offers professionals flexibility and choice at various stages in their lives: for example, they may enjoy permanent work initially and prefer more flexibility should they become parents. They may decide after years in permanent employment to become a digital nomad to travel and enjoy new life experiences, or they may decide at retirement age that they are not ready to stop working and still have a great deal to contribute – on their own terms. Van Niekerk says many freelance professionals choose this model because they want to benefit from a range of professional experiences, good work-life balance, and choice in working conditions and office hours.
In 2020 and 2021, demand for talent through the Outsized platform soared – more than doubling in 2021. Demand for freelance professional skills came primarily from Big Four consultants, the insurance sector and the financial sector more broadly. In addition, global interest in South African resources is increasing.
In-demand skills in 2022
Outsized’s Talent On-Demand Report 2022 for Asia and Africa indicates that the top 10 in-demand skills in Africa this year are in the areas of Actuarial, Data Analytics, Legal and Regulatory, Programme Evaluation, Business Intelligence, Quantitative Analysis, Murex, Market Research, Accounting and Business Analytics.
The research indicated key growth areas, with a 23% increase in demand for project-related skills, such as Project and Programme Managers, Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters, a 20% growth in demand for Strategy Consultants, 18% growth in demand for financial services-focused roles such as Quants, Actuaries and Financial Risk Specialists and a 17% increase in demand for tech and data-related roles such as Data Analysts and Data Architects. Outsized says that across its platform, the typical day rates independents charge vary from USD 200 to nearly USD 640 based on the number of years of experience, with the Middle East and Southeast Asia being the higher-cost geographies with strong competition for skilled independents. South Africans fare well, earning between USD 350 and USD 450 per day on average; meaning they are competitively positioned on the world stage for roles requiring their skills.
A game plan for freelance opportunities
Van Niekerk notes that professionals typically have at least 7 to 10 years’ experience before becoming valuable as freelance resources and making the leap into the world of freelance work and consulting.
“For all those now starting to study, we still recommend that you study what you are passionate about first and foremost. We see work going global, and it’s not static, so study what interests you, get formal experience, and learn to market and sell yourself. The world is changing, and you need to be aware now that there’s a growing world of freelancing which has massive appeal for many people.”
He recommends that young professionals start planning early if they want the option of flexible work later.
“If you’re going places and thinking about building a professional career with flexibility and choice, you should have this on your radar as early as possible. Strategically build your experience by taking on a range of projects and challenges, and owning those tasks. Build varied experiences, network widely and commit to lifelong learning. Remember that freelancers are entrepreneurs, so learn entrepreneurial skills like time management, sales and marketing too. If networking and business development is not your strength, ensure you connect with partners like Outsized that do so,” he advises.
When is the time right to make a move?
Van Niekerk recommends spending at least a few years in permanent employment, learning and gaining as much experience and maturity as possible. Formal employment also gives credibility and a key opportunity to save up some money. “There is a cost to the freedom you get as a freelancer, in that your income can be erratic,” he cautions.
“This means your ability to absorb financial variability is also important. If you’re preparing to become a freelancer, you should have a financial cushion. If, for example, you could save 20% of your income, you’d have a year’s income saved after 5 years, which would make the transition easier.” He also recommends looking for a longer-term contract as the first move into freelance work, to gain some initial stability.
“Freelancing is not everyone’s choice. However, it is a growing trend and an option. What you want in life is options, so set yourself up to be in the best position to grab those opportunities if and when they suit you,” he concludes.
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