The pandemic pushed many people to get comfortable connecting virtually. People swarmed into the internet not only for work but also for social activities. Covid-19 is increasing social media usage. I for one, have been spending more on Twitter and Instagram, went for virtual group bike rides on Zwift, spent a lot of time on Reddit and Discord, and had virtual offsites with Oculus.
Increased representation of real people on the internet
In the past, only public figures, businesses, or creators developed their online presence. Now, we’re seeing an increasing number of people jumping into publishing online. This increase is in part thanks to social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok. Unlike Facebook, which feels more private and closed to family and friends, these apps are public by default. Besides, creating content in these channels is becoming easier. Even YouTube is testing short-form videos with YouTube shorts.
This increase in online participation allows you to connect with anyone, anywhere, at any time. You can easily tweet at someone you admire, engage with your followers, or participate in an ongoing thread. It’s also easier to find like-minded people compared to before.
However, the increase in the number of people participating and the amount of content produced means it’s becoming more difficult to stand out from the crowd. To create a following, it’s critical that you have a laser focus on your niche and be consistent. Consistency sets an expectation for your content and makes it easier for the audience to follow you.
What would the online society look like?
In due time, the internet will be full of new experts who have honed their skills in connecting with their audience. These will be the new ‘companies.’ Already, we see influencers amassing a large following and venturing into other businesses. We tend to think of ‘influencers’ as a specific subset of content creators, but in the future, we will start seeing more ‘everyday’ people sharing their unique skill sets and insights with their audience. With increasing decentralization in finance, it will become easier to make money across borders.
These experts know from their direct interaction with the audience - who their audience is, what they like, what they need, and how to communicate with them on different channels. Given such an intimate understanding of their audience, it’s easy for them to provide products that the audience truly values. The direct access to their audience is a competitive advantage that you can’t ignore.
This is in stark contrast to how the established business runs. For traditional industry, a product team develops the product, marketing research studies the audience and the marketing team reaches out to the audience with defined communications. The units operate in their confined space of the ‘company,’ and it takes extra effort to learn about the audience.
The future experts can not only do the work, but also have a voice and contribute value to the online society. They will be all over the world - not confined by a single company, location, or timezone. They may partner with other experts or join forces to create a larger team. Several experts can work on projects in a decentralized manner, providing their specific niche skills. The nature of work will become more and more decentralized. The value of an ‘employee’ will no longer be confined to a company, or the title conferred by the company. Instead, what matters is whether you can provide a real impact.
In sum, the decentralized workforce will be flatter (vs. hierarchical), more open (vs. controlling the flow of information), agile and bottom-up (vs. top-down), and hyper-focused on real impact (vs. optimizing for office politics).
|Open flow of information||Closed flow of information|
|Empowering small teams||Politics and approvals|
What can you do to prepare yourself for the future?
To participate in this decentralized workforce, you need to discover opportunities or have the opportunities find you. For this, you need to have (1) an online presence, and (2) a unique value proposition, and (3) participate actively in your online communities. This way of thinking is not easy given that our education system does not prepare us for this future. But it’s a muscle you can start building now.
First, start by understanding yourself - what do you like? What are you good at? What would people pay for you to do? Here’s a beautiful Ikigai diagram to help you.
Second, ask your 3 - 4 close friends the following questions. It will give you perspectives. It’s a good idea to write one for your friend as well. We’re in this journey together. While you wait for your friends to get back to you, try answering them yourself so you can compare notes later. (I can’t recall where the questions are from - if you know, please let me know and I’ll add the credit.)
Feel free to use the following template.
Hi [name], I’m on my journey to learn more about myself and discover my niche. Could you help me answer the following, by [defined time]. Thank you!
- What do you think are my biggest passions and why? If you can think of at least two or three, that would be great. Please explain.
- What do you think are my biggest natural strengths and talents? Please explain.
- Given the above and what you know about me, what have you always thought I’d be great at doing as a career? Or maybe as a volunteer or hobby? Please explain.
- And here’s the big one… Assuming you didn’t know me personally, what talent, skill, or passion would you happily pay me to teach or help you with? Why?
The future of work is likely to be decentralized and distributed. To stay competitive, you need to start building your niche. Creating your niche, especially in the online world, isn’t something we are taught in school. We need to test and redefine it for ourselves continuously. This process is a life-long journey. Start early, and keep iterating until you find the right fit for you. Good luck!
Do you want to chat more about how to discover your niche? Please send me a DM at @erinejeong.