In 2021, it’s unimaginable living life without computing technology.
It drives how we work and live, with computers a necessary part of modern life.
Think about it this way.
Computers are so significant that one of the biggest, most innovative technological breakthroughs was Apple’s iPhone in 2007. With the world’s first smartphone, the invention changed the way we use phones forever: combining telecommunications and computing into one, easy-to-carry tool.
That’s how integral computing and tech have been to our society over the past 100 years. While the dot-com boom of the 1990s propelled technology to unimaginable heights, this kind of technology has been studied longer than you think.
Computers’ origins can be traced back as early as 1890, however, the technology was just a glimmer in Herman Hollerith’s eye when he created a punch-card system specifically for calculating the U.S. Census. That technology saved the federal government $5 million (remember, this is 1890 money) and was the beginning of a little company called IBM.
But modern computing didn’t really get started until 1936 when Alan Turing envisioned the concept of computing, a simple device he called the Turing machine. The device operated on a tape strip. Based on a set of rules, the machine manipulates symbols on the strip. Not exactly Google, but Turing inspired innovators like J.V. Atanasoff to build a small, analog calculator called “Laplaciometer,” as well as establishing computing’s core building blocks.
From there, the military played a huge role in technology as we know it today. Research on what we know now as the internet began in the 1970s, with a fully operational network launching in 1983. It took another decade for the network to enter the mainstream, becoming what is lovingly known as “the world wide web.”
The introduction to the mainstream kicked off incredible innovation and inventions, with California’s Bay Area quickly being dubbed “Silicon Valley” for the iconic tech companies founded in its geographic area. So, it’s no surprise we have reached the era of rapid tech development. So rapid that it’s forcing the need for specialized experts that are often self-taught.
Four-year degrees can’t catch up with technological innovation
Social media is one example of an industry that doesn’t fit the four-year-degree model. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, social media companies quickly pivoted, introducing quarantine-friendly features in just a few short months. Previous features were less necessary, with users demanding zoom-like options from Facebook and going live with multiple accounts on Instagram.
That is a whirlwind change, and even the most seasoned social media and digital marketing experts struggle to keep up with the trends. A digital marketing student entering higher education will exit with outdated skills, potentially struggling to keep up with self-trained, specialized experts.
In fact, just Google “get a job in digital without a degree” and thousands of how-to guides, message boards, and industry blogs pop up.
Top Resume writer Lana Richardson sums up why becoming a specialized expert is so attractive to many workers:
“…the best thing about Digital Marketing as a career is that there’s no linear entry path into this field and, although it can make things more straightforward, you don’t need a degree in marketing to get a job in this industry.”
It’s true. Digital jobs are evolving at such an accelerated pace that an individual decorated with degrees and certifications may not necessarily be the best choice for the job.
COVID-19 helped drive people to become flexible, specialized experts
Technology has been evolving rapidly, but what kicked that acceleration up a notch was at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. State-mandated shutdowns deeply hurt businesses’ bottom line, resulting in the highest unemployment rate since World War II.
With government-issued stimulus checks barely enough to cover rent, out-of-work professionals needed to find a way – any way – to gain income.
As a result, the amount of flexible workers increased 8 percent in 2020 and people are looking at their skills in a new way.
A September 2020 NPR article used executive editor Diana Gill as an example. Working more than two decades at a large publishing house, even Gill was not immune from COVID-19’s command on the economy. As a result, Gill found herself in a specialized expert role, marketing her services as a flexible manuscript editor. Since jumping into flexible work, Gill has been busy, however, there is a level of anxiety involved. Working on projects and contracts only, Gill has to be on her toes and always looking ahead for the next opportunity.
“Freelancing is feast or famine. So it kind of comes in waves. And I know at some point there will be less of it. So I’m looking at what to do and how to make it work as a business,” Gill told npr.
Job benefits and security have been two driving reasons why people choose full-time work over a flexible situation. What COVID-19 taught us is there is no such thing as job security. One would think a seasoned professional like Gill wouldn’t have to worry about job layoffs after two decades, but we were all proven wrong in 2020.
In fact, with the recent rise in talent-matching platforms, all anxiety that comes with flexible work is wiped away.
Talent-matching platforms are keeping up with the digital evolution by utilizing flexible talent
In a little more than a decade, talent-matching platforms have seen rapid growth, similar to the flexible-talent boom. That’s because talent-matching platforms have recognized a big problem: the current job platforms are too shallow. For a specialized expert working in a flexible economy, that’s time spent writing cover letters, scouring job boards, and marketing yourself through other avenues like social media and blogging. That time could be spent gaining income, but for too long, it was one of few ways to get work.
Talent-matching platforms like FlexTal, which work primarily with specialized workers, are known as “deep platforms” and completely cut out the time spent searching for work and recruiting talent. (Yep, client and worker both win.) But what’s really special about these platforms is how they match clients with a flexible worker that knows their stuff.
For too long, the agency was the place to go for outside work. The great part about agencies is they can do it all. The downside is the work is… not great. At least not the quality a client would receive if they worked directly with an expert that knows their industry inside and out. Over the past decade, flexible-talent platforms have been coming for agencies, with client benefits that are too good to pass up.
With agencies, clients are paying fees within their scope of work. These fees include staffing, overhead cost – all the nitty-gritty that goes into running a business. Unlike agencies, flexible workers are independent. This means clients are paying for little-to-no overhead, saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars in their budget.
That’s because with flexible talent, they get exactly what they pay for: the work they need.
Lindsay Patton is a self-employed writer and social media strategist. A leader for most of her career, Lindsay has managed more than 250 direct employees and loves mentoring young talent to help grow their skills. She spent seven years as a reporter and editor and is still an active writer and journalist. In 2016, Lindsay started taking social media seriously and the skill quickly became one of her specialties. Within the past two years, Lindsay has been invited to speak on social media and leadership in the workplace by Ernst & Young, Social Media Day PHL, The W.E.L.L. Summit, and more. She has found happiness in the self-employed life because it allows her the flexibility to spend quality time with her husband and their two goofball dogs.