Eileen Chadnick is principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto (@Chadnick) and author of Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy. See www.bigcheesecoaching.com and follow her on Facebook (facebook/bigcheesecoaching.com) and Twitter .
Lately I've been having a lot of conversations about career stability. Clients – of all ages and experience – are expressing some anxiety around the new way of work, which is increasingly contract- and gig-oriented.
Surprisingly, many within the millennial generation are voicing this concern, wanting to settle into something more secure. Trying to get traction in their careers, they want a full-time, long-term job with benefits, growth potential/vertical-promotion possibilities … in other words, some of what their boomer parents had in their careers.
Uh oh. Those times have changed.
Welcome to the gig economy. Get a gig, then another, and another …
Stability and security are reasonable wants but today's career landscape is increasingly different from that which the boomer generation navigated. We're now deep into the gig economy. The rules have changed.
Increasingly, organizations are shifting to what can be described as an "agile work force." More contract and freelance hiring, which lends itself to a more dynamic and flexible work force serving "just-in-time" needs and evolving requirements. While "FTE" (full-time equivalent) roles still have a significant place in our career landscape, it's a good idea to hold that notion of "permanent" lightly these days. Organizations change, restructure, merge. Needs change. Even a full-time, so-called "permanent" role can turn out to be a "gig," too.
But all this doesn't mean we have to completely forego the notion of career security. We just need a new approach and mindset about career security for today's realities.
Here are a few ways to get some career security in the gig economy.
Stay nimble; be quick: Much of your career security will depend on how quickly you can adapt – either within your current role or on to another. The pace of change continues to accelerate. Ambiguity mixed with frequent (often sudden) change will increasingly be the norm. Those who can learn to roll with this will find themselves more secure in their job prospects and within their emotional well-being.
Know your super powers: According to a LinkedIn @Work study, Canadians are known to be modest. This is not an asset; it's a potential derailer. The gig economy will insist you get to know yourself better, because you will need to sell yourself again and again. Knowing your skills, accomplishments and superpowers will give you confidence (valuable in itself), and help you get your next gig as you continuously "fertilize" and freshen up your career narrative (in your résumé, LinkedIn, interviews, etc.). Of course, it will be key to make sure your evolving skills are current and in demand.
Leave nothing on the table: A new gig can provide a new opportunity to expand your career potential by learning new skills, meeting new people (for career-long networking) and conquering new challenges. Even if a gig isn't ideal, you might still find something of value in the experience. With the perspective that nothing is wasted, then every experience can serve a purpose. Optimize, maximize and make sure every gig matters in some way.
Be open to lateral moves: If you think the only way to grow is via vertical ascent, think again. Lateral moves can be expansive, too. Don't get too stuck on titles; many people have built robust careers with some side steps and zig-zag moves.
Build – don't burn – bridges: In a gig economy, you will meet a lot more people in your career. You will also end/leave jobs more often. Build bridges wherever you go and continue to nurture a healthy network. Give, don't just take. And never burn a bridge when leaving or completing a contract, even if it was a toxic experience. Always exit with grace and professionalism. You never know who you will meet in your next gig and/or need a reference from.
Build your inner game resilience: A gig career has many benefits – but no question, it can also be stressful. Learn to manage anxiety when in times of uncertainty. Your mental, emotional and physical well-being will be a significant factor to your success. Take it seriously and invest in your inner game.
Money matters: With less certainty and potentially more income interruptions, the gig economy can present new financial realities. Spend within your means and save more for those rainy days. Get advice from a financial planning professional who understands and can advise in this new paradigm. Doesn't hurt to shore up on your own financial literacy, too.
The gig economy presents new challenges (and opportunities) for all of us but with the right moves you can create more security in your "career-ability." Stay focused and do your best work wherever you go. Build healthy networks. Concurrently, keep your eyes open and on the horizon and always be career-ready for your next move.
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