Autonomy, or the condition of self-governing, is often associated with knowledge workers and knowledge work. Typically autonomy is about how you DO your work. What if autonomy was about how you MANAGE yourself in relation to all your work? Enter the Me Incorporated (or Me Inc.) concept.
Essential to Me Inc. is the idea that you take the lead for your vocational adventure. It’s about you AT work, and you ABOUT work. It’s honouring the ‘voice’ inside that calls you to align what you do with your purpose. (The word ‘vocational’ is related to the word ‘voice’.) It’s having a considered perspective about the Why, How, What, When, Who, Where of your workscape. It’s the mindset that “You are self-employed regardless of who pays you.” And this new mindset means new responsibilities, new actions, and new tools.
Why consider a Me Inc. adventure?
Work is literally and figuratively a huge part of our lives. Work generates a source of income; it provides a place to exercise talents and skills; it’s where we often make friends; it’s a place to learn and grow; and it’s a way to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. With something so critical, shouldn’t there be substantial personal consideration about how work figures into our own life?
Catalysts for this adventure are often:
1. Desire to improve your professional and personal well-being. You need to shift out of a bad state and restore well-being; or you want to establish patterns of working to sustain well-being.
2. Major shifts about the idea and reality of work in response to political, economic, and social changes. You want to be prepared and capable to navigate these shifts. For more insights on the shifts, I recommend reading “The Shift, the future of work is already here” by Lynda Gratton
Are you seeking and ready for change?
Explaining Me Inc.
Me Inc. is separating You as an identity from your current job and employer. There is You (becomes Me Inc.) and The Job (becomes a job). Many employees find their identity so integrated into their current job that they can’t define themselves without that job. People on a Me Inc. adventure can define themselves without reference to any single job or employer.
Your current job is simply one ‘gig’ in a lifetime workscape of many serial gigs, as well as one gig in current workscape of potentially many co-existing gigs.
The diagram below illustrates Me Inc. as two perspectives of your vocational life.
A. Lifetime workscape (Blue box) with multiple eras (Green lines)
B. Current workscape with either a single (Black box) or multiple gigs (Red box)
A set of Me Inc. scenarios
The Me Inc. vocational adventure can be thought of as different scenarios. The scenarios are not necessarily progressive – you might go for No 1 and never go for No 3 or 4.
1. Reinvent your work. A traditional way to change your current work is to negotiate with your current employer for a different set of responsibilities or a different scope of work and change what you do. The Me Inc. approach changes your mindset about yourself in relation to your current employer, i.e. you have a Client not an Employer, and you are a Service Provider rather than an Employee.
2. Add extracurricular. This is an approach for when your current role doesn’t offer the opportunities you want, to use or develop particular talents, or the talents you want to develop or use have little relevance or value to your current employer, i.e. starting a business. The Me Inc. approach is for you to take the lead of adding activity you value into your vocational package. It is very likely this activity will be done outside current work hours and for another organisation or group. Extracurricular could be taking a leadership role in a professional association group; doing volunteer work; tinkering with a hobby as a potential business; or starting up a group or exploring a venture with like-minded people.
3. Go somewhere different. This is an approach for when you decide to leave your current role to locate somewhere else, while reconceiving how you want to be or what you will do in a different role. The Me Inc. approach is for you to find and secure a role that is a good fit for your version of Me Inc. It’s not to simply take any role just because it’s available or offered.
4. Take a big leap. This is an approach for when your entrepreneurial spirit is so strong you simply must create your own business or organisation to realise your vocational adventure. You may be a business of one as a freelancer, or you may create a business that employs others.
In all scenarios above, you take on additional responsibilities for your vocation or career than if you were ‘simply’ an employee. You might call these ‘career management’ responsibilities; I invite you to think of them as ‘Me Inc.’ responsibilities. (By a different name, you may liberate new insights for yourself!)
Extra Responsibilities in Me Inc.
Many of these ‘extra’ career responsibilities were previously owned and determined by the organisation you work for – and this won’t necessarily change. In a Me Inc. paradigm, You change to you have your own perspective: doing these by yourself, and for your direct benefit.
Here’s a list, brought to you by the letter R.
Reign purpose, strategy, direction – the big picture stuff that will guide your choices
Reputation branding, marketing – what you are about and getting the word out
Relationships connections, networks, collaborations – who you know and how you leverage social ‘capital’
Rule code of practice, processes, terms & conditions – your ‘operating system’ for doing and managing your style of work
Reform performance, improvements, quality criteria – the What and How you will learn and transform
Resources infrastructure (soft & hard) – the things you need to have and use
Revenue delivery, multiple sources, administration – how you are going to get currency-of-choice for what you do
This translates into skills and resources you need that you probably won’t get with/from your current employer. On a Me Inc. adventure – it’s up to you!
Me Inc. adventurers
The Me Inc. adventure is for at least these three groups of people:
- Young people starting their working life who want to set relevant useful patterns for themselves
- Experienced employees seeking to approach work differently
- Mature people who are exiting traditional working life and ready to reinvent themselves
Influences from my own journey
The Me Inc. idea was influenced by other people’s thinking. I’d like to take a moment to honour the sources of influence.
- About 10 years ago, I saw a book on the bookstore shelf called “You Inc.” by John McGrath . The title and premise about personal responsibility, were sufficient to shift my thinking: To a view of myself as my own business even if I was an employee and not looking to start my own business/organisation.
- About 8 years ago, I bought the book with the provocative title “Willing Slaves” by Madeleine Bunting, and was fuelled by the notion that modern organisations are not the benevolent employers they purport to be. My eyes were opened to the general lack of self-determination of employees about their relationship to work.
- In reading the book “Slideology” by Nancy Duarte, I was introduced to the elegant slides of Pamela Slim as designed for her Declaration of Independence message (viewable on YouTube) . I was particularly taken by the message, “I am self-employed regardless of who pays me”.
Ready, set, go
Are you ready to start a Me Inc. adventure?
A learning programme for Me Inc. adventurers is under development. For more details, contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to ensure knowledge is valued and leveraged. She revels in making small changes that disrupt the way people think and what they do. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people and knowledge.