How to Participate in the Gig Economy (Even as an Executive)
There’s a lot of buzz words in the job search world these days — the gig economy, contract gigs, ‘permalancers’, talent exchange, talent economy, interim gigs, and my newly-coined version ‘gig economist’. At the heart of these concepts is one meaning — Freelancing. Once reserved for artists, editors, musicians, graphic and website designers, freelancing is becoming more mainstream and is being embraced by professionals and executives across a wide range of industries and backgrounds.
A recent LinkedIn blog post How the Freelance Generation is Redefining Professional Norms, the writer states, “The world of work is changing — you can see it in the numbers. Freelancers who made up a mere 6% of the workforce in 1989 are expected to represent 43% of the workforce by 2020.”
The world of work is indeed changing, and it sounds exciting. Those who long for work-life balance and flexible schedules can become gig economists. In fact, in the midst of writing this article (coincidence or not), this former Divisional Vice President contacted me for services. During our conversation she brought up the topic of interim jobs, suggesting that she is willing to consider such opportunities. “I am at a point where I want to continue working even if it’s not at the salary and title I am used to.” That led us to talk about this trend of contract work.
Choice or Happenstance
One of my clients was laid off just before summer last year. He wasn’t in a rush for a new job but found one sooner than expected. This was a six-month contract. We discussed the pros and cons and he decided to take the job as it was with a well-established company with great potential. (The contract has since been extended).
Whether by choice or happenstance, some job seekers are faced with the dilemma of unemployment or contract gigs. Some have been laid off (through no fault of their own), and are actively searching for full time jobs. Others are looking for a career change. But there is one group — serial contractors or ‘permalancers’, who are deliberately choosing to move from one gig to another when they want.
The quest for work-life balance, the departure from a set work schedule, and the evolution of technology have all impacted how work gets done. In an interview with Michael Carter, co-founder of Kahuso, an online marketplace that connects accomplished executives and professionals with companies for full-time, contract, advisory and board opportunities, I asked him about the demographic shift that is taking place within the job marketplace.
As a freelance executive and a multi-time entrepreneur, Michael understands the importance of having access to the right people at the right time. Michael and his co-founders also realized there was a disconnect between companies in need of executive talent and accomplished executives who have core skills they have developed over the years and would like to parlay into passion projects.
For senior executives, this shift towards the gig economy represents an incredible opportunity to enjoy a better way of working — one that combines interesting and lucrative work with the ability to control work flow, schedules and projects by creating arrangements outside of the traditional full time role.
There are those who still aspire to work, not because they have to, but because they want to continue to be engaged in value-based work, and have the flexibility and balance they seek. Kahuso fills this void, having created an executive cloud for companies to access. They work exclusively with executive-level talent by matching expertise with opportunity. This arrangement brings tremendous job satisfaction to executives while lowering costs and commitment for companies.
Another platform that’s worthy of consideration for interim work, if you are based in the United States, is Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ PwC’s Talent Exchange program. According to Pablo Medina from their US Advisory division, this Talent Exchange “is a marketplace that connects top independent talent with opportunities on PwC projects. By removing the middle-man, the Talent Exchange provides greater access and transparency to independent professionals, while building relationships that help PwC continue to deliver for its clients.” It is available to US-based talent who have the skills and experience needed by the firm’s Advisory practice.
Who really benefits from the gig economy?
Companies benefit from lower costs and just-in-time hiring. When there is an in-house shortage of skills, they know where to access a reservoir of talent. Freelancers or gig economists benefit from having a flexible work schedule or access to interim assignments. A Fast Company article How the Gig Economy Will Change in 2017, discusses the trend.
Even HR departments are beginning to think differently these days and are taking steps towards this new and emerging talent economy. Lisa Taylor, Founder & President of Challenge Factory, said in a virtual conference hosted by Career Professionals of Canada that, “HR is shifting from how work gets done to who does the work. They hire the talent they need when they need it.”
While the gig economy enables companies to hire talent on an ‘as needed’ basis without incurring additional costs, the downside for job seekers is a decline in traditional full time jobs.
How Job Candidates from all Levels Can Participate in the Gig Economy
Anyone can participate in the gig economy. Results of a 2016 survey by Upwork, a leader in freelance talents, and the Freelancers Union, shows that that 35% of the total U.S. workforce are choosing to freelance. While this survey was focused on the US market, globalization and access to technology have allowed millions of people worldwide to successfully engage in freelance work.
Platforms such as Upwork (formerly oDesk), People per hour, Fiverr, are online marketplaces where people can ‘hire out’ their talents. I have personally hired talent from Upwork and Fiverr at one point or another. These platforms allow employers, companies or entrepreneurs to post work they need done, and freelancers bid on that work.
Companies want to know how and where they can access talent without owning it. If you are unemployed, recently laid off, or looking for a flexible work schedule, review the following tips:
- Explore alternative work arrangements while waiting for your ideal job, whether you are an executive, manager or entry-level employee. Magic can happen when talent meets opportunity.
- Leverage your talent! Hire out your talent on some of the platforms mentioned above or explore others. You will acquire new skills as you move from project to project. You will be building your portfolio, adding to your resume, and making yourself more marketable.
- Stop feeling embarrassed about your short-term work assignments. Recruiters and employers understand the current job market, and are not that uptight about individuals involved in this kind of ‘job hopping’, especially those who have had a track record of steady employment.
- Treat your interim assignments as if they were permanent. Look out for tasks that need to be done and do them. Your interim assignment can become a permanent one.
- Autograph your work with excellence. Some companies use the short-term stint as a test before hiring full-time. If you can demonstrate initiative and fit, you could be the one offered the full-time opportunity.
Are you ready to take the big leap to become a gig economist? If not, what’s holding you back?
Share your thoughts here.
First published at Career Musings Blog