The “American Dream” we knew of growing up was one of a house, perhaps a white fence, and a career-long linear climb up bigger and better jobs working for 30 years at the same company. And that worked at one time. For better or worse, however, the world has changed and most of these conditions for the “perfect” life hardly exist anymore. For starters, buying a home in today’s market may not be as fiscally sound of an investment as it was for our parents, some neighborhoods don’t even allow fences, and linear career paths at only one company that actually wants to keep us for 30 years is something we only hear about from old movies now.
I hear a lot of commentary about Millennials in the workplace, and one common characteristic about this generation is that we are more focused on doing meaningful work than we are with money and status. While I refuse to lump 80 million people into that assumption, I can say that this is true for some of us. Let’s suspend any judgement of that for a minute and presume that is a noble cause to want to only focus on work that matters and makes a difference for people.
Combine this with a continuing swell of interest in the world on people finding their “why,” honoring their values, and increasing their consciousness about themselves and the world around them. As more people understand themselves and what is important to them, it is hard to go back to before you were enlightened, working in a job or company that didn’t align with your values.
This is where the gig economy is coming from. Companies are no longer the guaranteed employment havens they once were, so fewer people feel the need to stay when they know their time there may always be limited. An independent study estimates that over 40% of the workforce will be freelancers, contractors, or considered temporary employees by 2020.
The “New” American Dream I see evolving is the opportunity for people to be true to themselves and do work that is meaningful for them. So basically, being yourself and getting paid for it. Certainly, there is more to it than that (you can’t be known as “sweatpants guy” and get a half-million in corporate contracts), but more and more people are opting out of a corporate culture, forgoing the wait for a gold watch, and crafting their work around their own goals and values right now. There are companies starting to embrace flexibility and self-expression as well, in hopes that they can retain talent that could easily freelance elsewhere, but it is admittedly hard to build the exact right culture to suit everyone.
There is an element of courage here for each of us that should not go unmentioned. We have to be willing to know ourselves well, and show up as the most authentic versions of ourselves in order to truly live the New American Dream. You can’t be you and get paid for it if you aren’t really being you. And frankly, this can be the hardest part.
I am one of those dreamers, finding ways every day to further align my work with what I care about most. The more “me” I am, the more I attract the right work. What if you could just be you, and get paid for it? When you put it that way, it sounds pretty great.
About the author:
Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Facebook and Twitter.