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Freelancing and consulting: Hope for the career challenged

In early November, the Wall Street Journal and many other major publications reported on new findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that death rates rose among white, middle-aged Americans between 1999 and 2013. The increase is due in large part to rising rates of suicide, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses, and chronic liver diseases.

There’s some good news too. The death rate among middle-aged black and Hispanic Americans continues to decline. Also, the death rate in midlife from well-recognized killer diseases, including lung cancer, is declining.

Another distressing piece of news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider ages 45 to 54 to be middle aged. Bah. To me, they are mere youngsters and I am middle aged.

The news doesn’t offer a reason for these developments except to suggest that there’s a lot of stress out there and that many people are not achieving their expectation that they would outearn their parents.

Could freelancing, consulting and other modes of self-employment be partial answers?

We are bombarded online with the positive side of self-employment—all that delicious freedom and unlimited income potential—but perhaps it can also motivate and inspire those who are unemployed, prematurely “retired,” or otherwise frustrated with their work lives.

We are also deluged with lists of wonderful personal qualities possessed by the self-employed. They have endless passion, extreme levels of energy, total commitment. They work around the clock seven days a week. They think outside the box, handle change with aplomb and even enthusiasm. They are more creative than regular mortals.

But self-employment can also be a reasonable option for people who have been beaten down by painful career losses and dysfunctional hiring practices. We don’t need to be emotional superstars to create income. We can put our work experience to work in our own businesses.

Self-employment may be too difficult for people who are severely depressed or actively addicted. It’s not a substitute for antidepressants or counseling. It’s not a cure for acute psychological issues.

However, it may be an uplifting choice for some people who have not succeeded as they expected and can’t get a job they want. This new path may enable middle-aged people to create a positive career path, especially if they already have marketable skills and can obtain helpful advice and perhaps mentoring to show them the way.

More information on the study described above: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/29/1518393112.full.pdf

Originally posted 11-9-15

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