Degree Choice Can Help Achieve Location Independence
Between 20 and 30 percent of the workers in the U.S. and Europe are independent employees, according to a study released in late 2016 by the McKinsey Global Institute. Many follow that path not only because they want to stay out of the office but because they want location independence – to move and live wherever they want.
Percentages in the survey reflect views of as many as 162 million people. Of those:
- 30 percent chose independent work as a lifestyle, and it is their primary form of income.
- 14 percent chose independent work out of necessity as their primary form of income.
- 40 percent chose independent work as a form of supplemental income.
- 16 percent chose independent work out of necessity as a form of supplemental income.
- 15 percent use digital marketplaces to gain access to more clients and for more transparent and reliable payments.
Another finding: About 1 in 6 people working in traditional careers would prefer to work independently.
The gig economy movement
The Gig Economy as a phenomenon has been gaining national exposure due to the rise of companies such as Uber and TaskRabbit. However, it did not start with these companies. Prior to the name given to the movement, workers most commonly were referred to as freelancers or independent contractors.
Harvard and Princeton researchers, in conjunction with the National Bureau of Economic Research, recently published The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States. The data showed between 2005 and 2015, the number of workers engaged in alternative working arrangements increased from 10.1 percent to 15.8 percent.
This is further supported by a study completed by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, which says 35 percent of the American workforce, about 55 million people, are freelancing. When workers transition to freelance careers, 68 percent reported making the same or more than they had with their traditional job within a one year period.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Gig Economy is a desirable, relevant career choice for college graduates who want more freedom without sacrificing their earning potential.
Because the job sector is so diverse, workers must understand their skills and expectations. Jane Scudder, a career coach and independent worker, explains “It is essential to understand what success looks like to you so that you can ensure you are working toward this.”
Educational foundation for the Gig Economy
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has encapsulated the complexity of the Gig Economy by illustrating the many types of degrees and career fields have the potential to flourish in it. Essentially, any type of occupation in which an individual can be hired for jobs that are on-demand has the potential to succeed.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook created by the BLS shows the following five career fields are expected to have much better than average growth through 2020:
- Interpreters and translators – Bachelor’s degree in desired language with a focus on translation and interpretation.
- Market research analyst – Bachelor’s degree in market research or a related field.
- Technical writers – Bachelor’s degree in communications, English, or journalism or in a specific technical field such as medicine, engineering, or computer science.
- Registered nurses – Bachelor’s degree in nursing or an associate’s degree in nursing.
- Web developers – Bachelor’s degree in programming, computer science, or a related field or an associate’s degree.
Each has the potential to be performed in a location independent setting or leveraged for freelance work.
The right college degree to develop a location independent career is one that supports the student’s interests and talents and instills skills that can be leveraged in transitory positions such as traveling nurses or one-time creations such as website development.
Transitioning to Location Independence
Not everyone will be able to immediately create a career that allows work from any location. Some must transition slowly; however, this is occurring in greater numbers.
The BLS reported that in 2015 an average of 24 percent of employed individuals did some or all of their tasks at home. This represents an overall increase over the past decade.
Those working in business, management, and finance represented the highest percentage of people – 38 percent –completing at least some of their work at home. Production occupations had the lowest percent of people completing at least some work at home at 5.5 percent.
Jim Baca, an Android developer and location independent worker, says, “The key is to find a job that already allows some remote work, excel at your job and convince them to allow you to work remotely.” He further mentioned networking within one’s primary field as being essential in creating opportunities to work independently.
Preparing for location independence
The primary reason many people choose to work in unorthodox careers is the ability to move anywhere in the world. Finding the right career path is only the first step in this endeavor. It is also necessary to prepare one’s life for true location independence. Three essential strategies for making the process as easy as possible: a minimalist mindset, proper documentation, and planning.
A minimalist mindset is essential. It is difficult to move from one location to another if it involves packing the contents of a three-bedroom home for every move. Pare possessions down to those things essential for happiness and comfort and give away, sell, or store everything else.
Those who seek a truly location independent lifestyle must ensure key documentation is always available. For those traveling overseas, this means up-to-date passports and immunization records. Health insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, college degrees, certifications, and any other essentials should be kept with you; copies also should be stored in a cloud environment for easy access from any location.
Planning is the final ingredient in successfully moving freely throughout the world. Become an expert in time management, goal setting, and networking to make the most of your time in each location. Make sure you know where you will find internet access before you move or funding can quickly become an issue.
Statistics show workers are increasingly interested in careers that give them more personal and professional freedom. The popularization of the term Gig Economy has given the choice a greater sense of legitimacy and opens new possibilities for many college graduates to pursue location independence. Proper planning makes it possible to create a career and life path that allows one to move anywhere in the world.