A fantasy of shrinking your family can be entertaining, especially if you know from the start that it is a Disney film intended to entertain the entire family. We love to be entertained — taken away from the real world for a while. But what about the real world of today’s job market? It is shrinking, too.

Yes, Virginia, the job market is shrinking. I am here to tell you the cold hard facts that no one else seems to recognize … or, perhaps they just don’t want you to know. In Chapter 18 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), I include a graph of the U.S. net employment change by quarter per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That graph indicates that, while our population grew 20% during the last 20 years, the total number of jobs has trended slowly downward.

Next, consider that the BLS defines a person as employed if they have done ANY paid work during the week when they are surveyed. This means that a person is classified as employed if they are found to be working part time, in a temporary job, in a short-term contact, etc. Given that the proportion of people NOT in full time jobs has become a growing segment of the workforce, this means that the downward trend of “full time” jobs is actually larger than that of jobs in general. You already knew this.

As William Bridges noted in his 1994 book titled JobShift,

During a transition period like ours, jobs too will be around for a while. So if you still have one, hold on to it while you work on your alternatives. For quite some time many people will find a job to be a workable stopgap solution to the need for an income. But the only long term solution is to rebuild your career and your life around strategies that work in a dejobbed environment.

So, why am I sharing what many of you are likely to take as bad news? Because it is important that you consider this megatrend when making future career plans and employment decisions. More and more people must consider alternatives to full time jobs if we are all to prosper in an America that continues, regardless of the political party in power in Washington, to become “dejobbed.” Here are some alternatives to a full time job that more people need to be considering:

1. Independent consulting – Working for yourself and/or part-time with a consulting company.

2. 1099 “employment” – Working for an employer as an independent contractor.

3. Entrepreneurism 1 – Starting your own company from scratch.

4. Entrepreneurism 2 – Buying an existing business or a franchise.

5. Portfolio career – Developing some combination of two or more of the previous options, to establish the income you desire.

In the ancient employment paradigm of the 20th century, getting a good job with a good company was the gold standard that the vast majority of self-sustaining people pursued. Entrepreneurs were the tiny minority. In the 21st century, the old gold standard is slowly fading away. In the 21st century, perhaps your new brand should be entrepreneur or consultant.

If some of the options have gotten your attention, then consider reading Ceren Cubucku’s article titled Have You Ever Thought about Becoming an Entrepreneur? to consider more seriously what it takes to pursue the entrepreneurial option. And read Beth Kuhel’s article titled Starting Your Own Business? Keep It Simple for Success! if you would like suggestions for planning a new business.

Have you already found an alternative to the elusive 21st century “full time job”? I would love to hear about your experiences and suggestions.


Richard Kirby is an executive career consultant, speaker on career strategies, and author of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!). Richard Kirby’s earlier experience includes managing engineering, human resources, marketing and sales teams for employers that ranged from a Fortune 100 to a VC-funded entrepreneurial startup. For the past 11 years at Executive Impact, Richard has helped hundreds of executives and professionals successfully navigate today’s transformed 21st century job market and achieve better employment for themselves. Richard’s expertise includes career assessments and goal setting, personal marketing/branding, resume enhancement, strategic networking and job interviewing, and “contrarian” job search methodologies. He is a Board Certified Coach (in career coaching) and a Certified Management Consultant (recognized by the ISO).