Many make ends meet these days by doing gigs and participate in what is known as the gig economy, but also known by other names such as the shared economy, the peer economy, and the collaborative economy. This type of economy is nothing new, but apps technology makes it much easier, faster and ubiquitous than ever before for anyone to participate. For some this type of economy gives them flexibility though it is uncertain on getting timely work and earning decent wages. For others it is something they do till they can find a full-time job.
In an HBR blog by Andrew McAfee (associate director for Center of Digital Business at MIT Sloan School of Management and author) titled, "How Uber Explains Our Economic Movement." he writes about an Uber driver who picked him up. He writes that his diver said that "he’d been with Uber ever since he’d graduated from his master’s program in IT project management last year." And because of the Great Recession and fierce competition, "he hadn’t had a lot of success since graduating."
But there is a negative side of this type of a gig economy and that is can you ever get out of it and find something that may not be as flexible but certain? In the New York Times article titled "In the Sharing Economy. Workers Find Both Freedom and Uncertainty," it profiles a woman by the name of Jennifer Guidry (a mom, Navy veteran and an accountant) who started doing gigs after she was laid off six years ago, working as a controller for a small company because she could not juggle her work and raising a new born. Even with her experience in accounting and taking classes in electronics, she found it very difficult to get a full-time job due to competition and being a stay-home mom. Doing gigs was the only way she could pay the bills and raise her kids.
Many call them micro-entrepreneurs, but an apt name may be micro-earners, according to the NYT article, since many work seven days a week doing what they can find to earn some wages. Many of these microearners would like the certainty of a paycheck and benefits but this is not going to be easy.
Companies are not looking to hire since there is so much demand for people who are willing to work in the gig economy. This also tends to depress the wages of those who can eventually get a full-time job. According to the blog by Henry Blodget in Business Insider titled "Why Does the Economy Stink? Because America's Owners Are Greedier Than Ever Before," last few years have been a tremendous boon for companies as their profits are higher than ever before yet the wages of the employees have not grown the slowest since WWII.
Technology is making existing employees more productive and efficient. This is a double-edged sword; the same technology that makes our life easier is also making employers more productive with the people they have as the employers can optimize their resources.
Companies not only have to contend with stiff competition, but their clients also face stiff ccompetition too, so they are reluctant to spend if they don't see a return in the long term. In a sense everyone has a short horizon outlook so companies tend to outsource rather than hire workers full-time.
How do you change this?
How do you get out of this cycle of uncertainty to certainty of having a regular paycheck with good benefits with a full-time job? There is no quick fix to this problem that is quite complex. There are forces that are outside our control such as outsourcing, globalization, automation, insignificance of labor due to supply, skills gap, technology advancement, political gridlock and greedy corporations, etc. All you can do is focus on what you can control, and that is the kind of work you take on and keeping you skills up-to-date.
You want to work on gigs, if possible, related to your field. This way you are adding experience and staying close to your field so you can get to know the people who may be able to help you or connect you to people who can.
For example, the Uber driver may give discount to a company that has software people so he can get an opportunity to talk to them while driving them. Jennifer Guidry can do the same for an accounting firm or anyone that is an accountant.
This way you are not just doing your gig, but being strategic about it; you are around people in the field you like to wok in so by interacting with people in that field, you can come up with dome new ideas; you are talking to people about something the people know so he they are more likely to be interested and perhaps even recommend you to someone who may be looking to hire.
You will have to continue to market hard while also working hard at the gigs. Today, we all have to be good at personal marketing. This is nothing new. Even Mahatma Gandhi was a great personal marketer which I write about in my blog titled "Learn From Mahatma Gandhi About Personal Marketing."
You want to focus on doing the job at hand real well; see if you can bring a unique experience to your clients. For example, when driving business people to work, keep a copy of Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily and perhaps couple of business magazines in your car. You can ask what kind of music or podcast the person may be interested in listening to. Even if they say no, by just asking you will have differentiated yourself. You can of course come with you own ideas on providing unique experience..
The main thing to remember is that even though this is not the job you like, this is the only job that is in front of you. You have to treat it like you are Joe DiMaggio in how he approached every game. He once said that he put out 100% every game he played since there might be someone in attendance who may be seeing him for the first and only time. He can't let that person down.
If you can take initiative, be creative and passionate in a gig economy, so you can do the same in the real economy. You want to keep experimenting and be flexible. These are the same qualities that will get you noticed by a prospective employer.
All these may not get you a job right away, but if you stick to it, you will develop skills and earn higher wages or use the experience to get a permanent job if a good opportunity comes along. Doing it this way, you will have a game plan that is geared toward winning. It may take a while since the climate today is quite different than it was in the past; however, If you hang in there and not give up, you will prevail. Those who give up have zero probability of success.
The job market is tough for reasons that are outside our control. We can only control what we can control. Seth Godin writes in his blog "Totally and completely out of control" that "There are countless forces in our lives that are out of our control. That doesn't mean we can't do anything about how they influence our wok and our life. . ."
This means there is something that you are learning no matter what job you are doing. Don't just think of it as a job, but think of it like you are managing people's experience; hence, your job is not to just do the job, but create experience that others will talk about (and even blog about as I have done) and want to keep coming back to you since you are different and memorable. As Dr. Laura Schlesinger says on her radio show, "Now go conquer the day!"
People remember how you make them feel; I have documented the way I have felt with some people providing unique experience in the following two blogs:
Why We Tipped Paul "The Waiter" Extra $20
Why I Only Know Trudy From Costco