London Business School founder and Claremont Graduate University's Drucker School of Business Professor, Charles Handy.
London Business School founder and Claremont Graduate University's Drucker School of Business Professor, Charles Handy. - 
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[This commentary originally aired on Marketplace, Nov. 6, 2009]


TESS VIGELAND: I know some of you will not agree with my assessment that if you still have a job in this economy you might want to put complaints about your work load on hold.

But here's another option: Find a way to work for yourself.

Commentator Charles Handy says we need to start thinking about jobs in a whole new light.

Charles Handy: Let's be realistic -- jobs are going to be in short supply for the next few years. Of course, it does depend on what you mean by a job.

The other day, I was having lunch with an advertising executive. He was bemoaning the fact that he had lost his job while still at the height of his powers, as he saw it. Just at that moment, the electrician who was working in his house put his head around the door. "I won't be back for a couple of days," he said. "I've got another job to fit in." In his world, a job meant a client; in my friend's world, it meant an employer.

There's no obvious limit to the number of electrician-type jobs that can exist. Or plumbers. Or accountants. The world is full of potential clients -- for something. The problem is that you have to create the something yourself, and most of us are not born entrepreneurs. Particularly if we have grown up and even grown old in institutions, moving from school to college to organization, places where work was shoved at you, yours only to pick up your shovel or pen and deal with it.

It's best to practice it young if you can. I said to my kids, "When you leave college don't get a job at first. Find someone who will pay you money for something you make or do for them. It will be good practice for life later on." But it's never too late to start, and more of us will have to, one day, now that life is longer and organizations much slimmer.

I did it. I became fed up with organizations -- grew out of them really -- and went on my own when I was 49. Cold-calling potential clients, learning to live a cash-flow life after a salaried one. It was hard at first. But I learnt to love the freedom, and the joy of working with people rather than for people. Besides, if you are your own boss, it's up to you how hard you work, or where, or when, or why.

Vigeland: Management consultant Charles Handy is a founder of the London Business School. His most recent book is called "Myself, and Other More Important Matters."