The world has changed.  Very few people graduate from school, climb on to the career ladder with a company, and then climb off decades later from a much higher rung with a golden retirement watch.  Most people work for many companies, in many industries, and under many types of terms during the course of their careers.  Consider the following statistics:

“Individuals born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957-1964) held an average of 12.3 jobs from age 18 to age 52, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

“49%, of people said they’ve made a dramatic career shift, like from marketing to engineering, or from teaching to finance.” (Liu, 2019)

“SHRM predicts the annual turnover rate to be close to 19%.” (Wells, 2021)

“More workers are giving up on getting a promotion. Only 16% of employees across the globe say they’re willing to go the extra mile at work these days — helping out colleagues, clocking extra hours or volunteering for more responsibilities (Gillespie, 2017)

This means that ordinary people are able – and really, required – to shape their own pathways. In essence, everyone is an entrepreneur now – even if the only company they ever run is their own career.

Thanks to technology and an increasingly global economy, a seemingly endless set of pathways now exist.  Individuals have access to more opportunities (skilled and unskilled) than any time before in history, the ability to earn more, and to do so with greater stability and growth.  With this expansion comes a widening and clarity of the definition of entrepreneurship. The purpose of this paper is to provide a clear outline of the basic options provided in the Modern Economy, the power these options offer to individuals, and the need for entrepreneurial skills to successfully create individual career pathways.  

When talking about entrepreneurs, we are traditionally talking about business starters.  A very small percentage of the population (11%) actually starts a business (Szmigiera, 2021).  Most people opt to try and create a more traditional career path working for others, using education, programming, or credentials as a vehicle to first secure a job, and to (hopefully) advance in terms of position and income thereafter.  They work hard, and wait to be rewarded with increasing responsibilities and pay.  This used to work well for many people, but it doesn’t any more – partly because industries and companies offering structured pathways for material advancement have all but gone away. 

Some of these pathways have been replaced by jobs that provide adequate pay, but offer little to no opportunity for growth in the short or long term.  Others have been broken down into small chunks of contract work. This puts people at risk of marching along a path that won’t lead them anywhere.  Many people who are not entrepreneurs feel trapped by the modern economy. We believe that within this challenge lies opportunity.  The lack of predetermined pathways opens up endless possibilities for individuals to design career pathways that are uniquely suited to themselves. With no predetermined ceilings, the sky is the limit – but only if you know how to build your own ladder.

These ladder builders are entrepreneurs, using the same skillset and mindset as business founders.  For entrepreneurs, the Modern Economy is a gift. It provides a lot of options to earn money immediately, grow income over time, learn and confirm personal alignment with work (before fully diving in), and build track records and career pathways that endure and grow.  The Modern Economy consists of six (6) Income Modalities™: 

While each Income Modality™ requires different strategies and tactics to enter, prosper, and grow, great power exists in each and in the availability of them all when approached properly.  For example, gig work can be a way to make quick money when you need it. It can also be a way to test your aptitude and alignment with a specific kind of work, a way to test a value proposition you eventually want to grow into a business, a way to gain experience you need to take the next steps in your career, or a way to build a customer base without committing full time.  Gig work as your only option is a hard way to live. But gig work fits into a variety of career paths as a valuable tool when treated as such.  A stage in a person’s career could look like these figures below:

At first glance, you might think you are looking at representations of people doing what they must to pay the bills.  That is sometimes true, but a lot more might be at play here.  Let’s look at some alternate explanations for these three configurations.

  • The first figure could be a showing someone who has a job that they don’t love. They are taking gigs to develop their side passion into a marketable skill set so they can move into that field as a job or even a business. Gigs are an outstanding vehicle for learning and growth.  Many people desire to start a certain company or secure a certain role, not knowing what it actually entails or what it is really like.  Gigs provide an opportunity for paid learning, skill development, and personal alignment confirmation. 

  •  The second figure could be showing a person who is building their business, while still working part time to support themselves as it grows. They might be taking a gig because it helps them gain new skills or customers, or it might be the best way to make more money in the least amount of time. In some cases, gig pay can eclipse that of a job, with many gigs paying over $200 / hour for specific skills and value, and not dependent on their local economy. 

  • The third figure shows someone who has established their solopreneur business, but still needs something else. That something else could be on the skill building side, the getting new customers side, or the making more money side. Whatever it is, as long as they are planning ahead, they are well positioned to eventually succeed.

With over 66% of people unhappy with their position, Gigs offer people the opportunity to crawl before they walk, and ensure they really want to do this before the dive in fully (Lipman, 2021). 

But the modern economy isn’t just about Gigs; it is about all the opportunities for personal growth and skill advancement that not only serve individuals in the present, but create openings to move down their self-designed career pathways.  Drawing on the examples before, if an individual wanted a certain full-time job that required more skills and experience, he or she may chart a path that looks something like this:

This pathway not only has the power of being designed by the individual him or herself (agency and ownership), but also provides immediate onramps to earn, learn, and grow.  Pathways like these provide logical advancements that build income and professional growth at a pace that meets the individual where they are, and reduces risk along the way.  And for those that wish to advance rapidly and are willing to put in the effort, personally created modern career paths can facilitate sharply accelerated growth. 

Regardless of your current situation or desires, properly harnessing the power of the Modern Economy can increase earnings, accelerate learning and alignment, and put you in a place to not only survive, but thrive in this or any market conditions.  To do this, you need to learn to think and act like an entrepreneur. 


2016 Human Capital Benchmarking Report. (2016, November). Retrieved from Society For Human Resource Management: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2016-Human-Capital-Report.pdf

Gillespie, P. (2017, December 29). Workers see fewer chances of promotion and raises, survey shows. Retrieved from CNN Business: https://money.cnn.com/2017/12/29/news/economy/workers-productivity/index.html

Lipman, J. (2021, June 1). The Pandemic Revealed How Much We Hate Our Jobs. Now We Have a Chance to Reinvent Work. Retrieved from Time: https://time.com/6051955/work-after-covid-19/

Liu, J. (2019, October 31). Nearly half of workers have made a dramatic career switch, and this is the average age they do it. Retrieved from CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/31/indeed-nearly-half-of-workers-have-made-a-dramatic-career-switch.html

Szmigiera, M. (2021, April 30). Established business ownership rate in North America, by country 2019 Published by M. Szmigiera, Apr 30, 2021 This statistic shows the established business ownership rate in North American countries in 2019., by country Established business ownership rat. Retrieved from Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/315556/established-business-ownership-rate-in-north-america/

Wells, M. (2021, April 10). What Is The Average Employee Retention Rate by Industry? [2021 Update]. Retrieved from DailyPay: https://www.dailypay.com/blog/employee-retention-rate/

We learn from a young age that if we work hard and keep our heads down, we will earn increasing responsibilities and pay. That used to be true when businesses felt a greater responsibility to nurture and grow their employees. But now that everything is in service to the short-term bottom line for stockholders, the rules have changed.

The world of work has changed. Few people graduate, climb onto the career ladder, then climb off decades later from a higher rung with a golden retirement watch. Most people work for many companies, in many industries, and under many different terms during the course of their careers.

Golden watch pathways have been replaced by lower pay jobs and less opportunities for career growth. Others have been broken down into small chunks of contract work. This puts people at constant risk of stagnating or even sliding backward. The middle class is shrinking, and no one is immune.

All of this means that ordinary people are able - and really, required – to shape their own career pathways.


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