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Andrew Burger headshot

'Jobbaticals' Catching On with Young, Mobile Workers


The nature of employment and the way Americans work has changed dramatically in the span of just two generations. Back then, changing companies, much less career tracks, was almost unheard of and very much frowned upon. Fast forward to today, and we find that research from Freelancers Union pegged the number of freelance contractors working in the U.S. at more than 53 million -- just over a third of the national workforce.

Flexibility, adaptability and the ability to quickly move up the “learning curve” have gained much value in an increasingly globalized labor market and highly specialized and services-driven U.S. economy. Flextime and working from home, as well as freelancing, are much more common. Similarly, more Americans are choosing or have little or no choice but to change companies and shift job types over the course of their working lives.

Temporary employment agencies have seen their businesses expand tremendously as a result. Innovative startups such as Jobbatical are taking things a step further. Looking to match qualified individuals with young, growing startups, Jobbatical offers paid internships and temporary employment, typically from six months to one year in duration, to young job seekers the world over.

Matching job-seekers with temporary jobs at startups

U.S. businesses – large, multinational corporations in particular – just don't take the same attitude to hiring and employment that they did only a generation or so ago. A massive number of people have entered the global labor force as the coincidence of "digitalization"; financial and business deregulation, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and rapid industrialization in countries such as the BRICS has resulted in a globalized economy.

In turn, this has driven labor costs down and shifted the balance between labor and capital decidedly in the favor of capital. It also enabled multinationals to hire workers, as well as invest in fixed assets such as manufacturing plants, pretty much wherever they deem provides the greatest value.

Furthermore, many young adults with college and post-graduate degrees are looking for more than a job that pays well – they're searching for rewarding work with companies that help better society and promote environmental sustainability.

A young, successful Estonian inventor and entrepreneur, Karoli Hindricks, her brother Ronald and Allan Mäeots co-founded Jobbatical to provide a means by which young adults could gain valuable work experience by taking on paid, short-term employment with startup companies looking to hire and grow. Raising an initial $250,000 from a diverse, international group of angel investors, a beta version of Jobbatical went live in October 2014.

Some 7,000 indviduals and more than 600 employers have joined the Jobbatical community to date. “Jobbaticals” typically run from six months to one year, Marketing Chief Isabel Machiko Hirama explained in an interview. Though temporary, they can, and have, resulted in full-time employment. “Jobbaticals,” she said, “are sort of like dating before marriage – a six-month or one-year date.”

Jobbatical employers tend to be startups in the Internet and high-tech sectors looking to develop and grow. They include some high-profile European companies such as Transferwise.

Tapping into the freelancing trend and emerging tech hubs

When it comes to Jobbatical job-seekers, more than half are software developers. That said, companies posting Jobbatical openings are looking “for tons of people,” including marketing specialists, Hirama added.

In addition to the freelancing trend, Jobbatical aims to tap into labor markets in emerging high-tech hubs. Most Jobbatical listings are for on-site positions, though some are remote or require periodic visits. Some employers offer Jobbatical seekers a choice of working in international cities, including Barcelona and Shanghai.

Companies based in Singapore, in fact, have posted the most Jobbatical openings. Singapore and other countries, such as Slovenia, she continued, really aren't on job seekers' radars.

Young Estonian companies are using Jobbatical to find qualified job candidates for temporary assignments as well. “Estonia,” Hirama pointed out, “is really a high-tech country – the government has enabled everyone to do practically everything online, from paying taxes to voting ... There's almost no bureaucracy, and there's a growing tech startup scene.”

Still in beta, joining Jobbatical is free, and it will always be free for job seekers, Hirama added. Once it emerges from beta, employers will need to pay a small fee to list openings. In return, Jobbatical copy-edits and formats employment listings and publishes them on the site.

Jobbatical is also developing a premium service for employers, Hirama continued. For a bit more, Jobbatical will screen candidates and forward a short-list on to employers given just a “bare bones” job description. Looking further ahead, Jobbatical aims to develop an online payment service. Jobbatical itself is also looking to hire.

*Image credits: 1) Ryan Robinson; 2) Edelman Berland, Intelligent Engagement for Freelancers Union

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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