Me Generation Guru

Not work 14 hours a day? Not work for the same company forever? What's wrong with people today? Has the hot economy created a generation of workers whose allegiance is to themselves, not their companies?

Seems so. And San Francisco-based Guru.com is taking advantage of this trend.

Guru.com is an online employment resource designed to give companies and individuals a place to exchange information about freelance projects, skills and availability.

"Guru.com answers a need for people who want a rewarding professional career but don't want to work 14 hours a day for a company all their lives," explains Andrew J. Blum, a managing partner at The Trium Group, a leadership consulting practice with offices in San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass., that has organized off-site leadership exercises for Guru.com.

But why would people rather deal with a Web site than with human contacts?

"Look - there are people who have small children and they don't want to miss those years, but they have experience and can really do work for a company. So working freelance makes sense for them," says Blum.

"For companies, this makes economic sense because they may have projects that only require a certain number of hours," says Blum. "The nature of work is changing."

There are "many people who would rather work hard for a couple of months and then take two months off," he adds.

More freelance and project-based work is now available, which means times are good not just for workers but for Guru.com as well. In mid-September, the startup raised US$44 million in its third round of private funding, bringing the total investment to $63 million.

And with the U.S. economy near full employment - at just 4.1 percent unemployment in August - workers are encountering the best job market in years.

With information systems graduates attracting a lot of interest (the average salary offered to IS grads has jumped 10.6 percent since July 1999 to $43,402, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers), is it any wonder that people with skills such as Java programming and Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 back-end expertise can call their own shots when it comes to how much they want to work?

Jon Slavet, co-CEO of Guru.com, recently told me that more than 350,000 people have registered as gurus at the site.

He also says that the company offers incorporation services for independently run businesses and is a conduit for tax and finance questions from independent professionals.

But with the economy still going full tilt, Guru doesn't yet offer advice to those who have been laid off.

What else would you expect from a generation that's never faced a recession?

Pimm Fox is Computerworld's West Coast bureau chief. Contact him at pimm_fox@computerworld.com.

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