Every musician dreams of becoming the next big rock star. The reality for most is having a primary income – their day” job – and working periodic “gigs” on weekends or evenings playing in whatever club will have them. Musicians commonly greet each with the obligatory “when is your next gig?”
Gigs are short duration events that come and go. Few people think of their jobs or careers in this way; but maybe they should.
Welcome to the Gig Economy. About 34% of US workers are independent workers: consultants, professional contractors, Uber drivers, me as an independent inventor and my good friend, consultant Tom Trimbath (check out his blog, it is quite informative). We don't have a steady paycheck or sometimes any paycheck. In a typical week we gig workers may have 6 or 8 different projects, run personal errands on Wednesday afternoon and work all weekend.
Some of us, like me, chose to leave the corporate world to join the Gig Economy and the risk that entails. For many others, the choice was made involuntarily for them when their employer handed them a pink slip, saying metaphorically “thanks for the memories.”
When I started my career as a young engineer in the early 80s, the workplace was staffed with full time professional employees – very few people worked as contractors. The typical question among colleagues was always “how long do you plan to work here?” The assumption was leaving the company was probably going to be your choice, not your employer's. Certainly layoffs occurred in those days as well, but in most companies layoffs were infrequent sporadic events.
How times have changed!
Today, layoffs are pervasive throughout our economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure with a given employer is 4.6 years; longer for older workers (50+ years old), but much shorter – only 3 years – for younger workers. The odds that your job will end via an abrupt, often unexpected, layoff are quite high. In one of my last jobs as a telecom engineer, my tenure on a contractor was considered by many to be more “stable” than those of some full time employees.
Enough bad news. Given the chaotic workplace changes wrought by the nexus of the global economy and transformations in technology, is there anything you can or should do to improve your odds? Yes there is.
Join the Gig Economy on your own terms! Don't quit your day job, but rather start up a part-time business using your skills doing something you enjoy. For free help with many small business issues, consult a local Small Business Development Center. I was a business consultant there for 14 years as one of my gigs. The SBDC is a great resource to small business owners.
A friend of mine, Eduardo works full-time in telecom, but he also owns several houses he rents out and, in his “spare” time, he buys used cars, rehabs them and sells them for a profit. Eduardo has no intention of leaving his day job, but as he continues to build his part-time ventures, the day will come when he can choose to leave his employer and join the Gig Economy full-time pursuing his ventures instead. Eduardo has career choices others in his office do not because he has expended the time, effort, and work to build something for himself.
Choices are good!
But you will only have choices if you work to create them. Otherwise, the next time there is a layoff, you will have only one viable choice: to hit the streets looking for another job.