Gig Economy—by now you’ve probably heard about it, read about it or even participated in it. But what is it really, and what does it mean for you? Even if you’ve never thought of yourself as an entrepreneur or a business owner, you still have the ability to participate in the Gig Economy—no matter what your profession, age, life stage, lifestyle or skills. The greatest difference between a Gig Economy job and more traditional work is duration—it’s not forever.
If you feel caught off guard by this new way of working, then you haven’t been paying attention. The Gig Economy has been a long time coming. It’s the result of years of technology and application development, enhanced global communication tools and networks, and the desire by individuals to make change happen rapidly in order to achieve the lifestyle they want. The Gig Economy is disrupting the way we work and who works, and it’s here to stay (and perhaps the new normal for our future). Executive recruiters, employers and human resource groups have long advised that too many jobs on a résumé doesn’t look good. But as times have changed and a new generation of professionals has entered the market, exposure and experience in varied work environments and on small or large projects for short periods of time has become commonplace. People have learned to adapt to a different way of working and have become accustomed to not staying in one place too long. It isn’t because they’re going against the grain or trying to avoid an old dilemma of not knowing what to do in retirement; it’s because participants in the Gig Economy are expected to rapidly evolve and adapt their skills to be project-focused vs. job- or career-focused. This shorter time frame and new flexibility encourage workers in the Gig Economy to consider and prioritize their well-being and lifestyle as part of the picture.
Boomers and the Sandwich Generation haven't been as quick to adapt to the new gig ecosystem. I think it’s because they didn’t grow-up in an era when information technology was mainstream. Chances are they purchased their first family computer more for their children than for themselves. They are only now beginning to integrate social media as an avenue for opportunity. This is where millennials have really soared. They have been stereotyped as a generation that lacks a strong work ethic, but in reality they have simply embraced the Gig Economy and made it part of how they achieve the lifestyle they desire. If you’re in your 20s or early 30s, you probably know several people who have changed jobs multiple times over the course of the last five years, even every year. You probably have friends who work as consultants and freelancers, and likely know those who have created a market for themselves by using social platforms to access opportunities and expose their potential. For you, working at a startup is mainstream and this type of work is typical, and embracing rapid change in your work life just gives you more time to achieve other personal goals.
The Gig Economy has as much to offer young, aspiring entrepreneurs and those facing retirement as it does potential employers. Companies can really take advantage of the benefits associated with working on a project-by-project basis. They can reduce their bottom line and overhead while adapting to ever-changing market and technology demands by taking advantage of these new Gig Economy expectations. Yes, there may be fewer opportunities for new hires over the long term, but that’s okay because these folks aren’t thinking long term. This means that short-term company structures can build high-performing, motivated teams that solve major problems and confront enormous challenges in a very short period of time—it’s called “prototyping the workplace.” In other words, they can create and offer opportunities that are just long enough to be exciting, but short enough so that people don’t lose interest, get lazy or begin to experience work-life conflict because the position is just no longer the right fit. There’s nothing worse than having a roomful of workers who are “secretly” looking for something else, or a great hire who suddenly ups and leaves with little to no notice. Gigs allow employees and employers (whether full-time or consultants) to recognize opportunities and relationships together, and acknowledge that work and projects are only part of who we are and where we want to be, sometimes for only shorter periods of time.
Individuals find this extremely attractive. They can ask for more money because they don't get benefits, and if it’s a great opportunity they get to live in a new place and take in an entire new experience. Older adults can take advantage of gigs, too, because gigs allow for greater flexibility in where, how and when they work. Suddenly, location is just as meaningful as a job description, whether it be near or even far from where you are right now. So how do we figure out the Gig Economy despite our age, career, life stage or personal philosophies? It’s not about who’s right or wrong—it’s about doing what’s right for you. How do you adapt and make the most of opportunities? How do you find out about them and access them quickly and effectively based on your priorities? We created (To) as a partner for you in navigating the Gig Economy. (To) can be an avenue to personal fulfillment, no matter how you define it. We all know someone struggling with what she or he will do coming out of college or approaching retirement; unfortunately, large job-based social networks have been missing the mark.
Different professions and professionals face different challenges. Fortunately, if you’re a healthcare provider—a doctor, a nurse, a speech pathologist or a dentist, to name a few—you should have no trouble finding work. The Affordable Care Act has sparked an even greater need for all types of healthcare providers. The US population continues to grow and age, which means even more people to care for. Healthcare professions have long recognized this demographic trend, which has led to professions and businesses being created in the Gig Economy to serve the needs of varied populations—big and small, rural and urban. A good example is the new healthcare job title of Hospitalist. Such changes can be in response to turnover and expectations of work-life balance at a time when new workers are needed. It’s why travel nursing has become so popular. Travel nurses have access to competitive salaries, flexible locations and multiple career paths. In the Gig Economy, experiences beyond the walls of the hospital are recognized as being just as important as those within. The Gig Economy is also why so many individuals are pursuing positions and careers in clinical settings and hospitals rather than group practices (beyond the fact that hospitals are largely making private group practices obsolete). These sorts of jobs and these sorts of organizations have already been working to adopt the Gig Economy in their business models, and as a result can offer very attractive incentive packages that require only a short-term commitment. They understand that workers' expectations are changing just as much as the needs of the hospital and community.
Where these organizations are falling short is reaching individuals before and during transitions and connecting them with meaningful gig opportunities. No one in healthcare should ever feel stuck. In those professions there are good opportunities to pay off loans, work part-time, work from home or work anywhere really, or adapt to personal circumstances that may direct a choice—the loss of a family member, the birth of a child, or the need of a spouse or partner to move. However, accessing these opportunities in a straightforward and understandable manner has never been possible, and the time commitment to determine if you are making the right gig decision can outweigh the benefits.
For healthcare employers in the Gig Economy, the bottom line is finding the best providers for the period of time they are able or willing to perform in a particular location. It’s about making employees happy throughout the course of their employment even when their motivation includes personal reasons. It’s about providing individualized incentive packages that can make gig workers' lives better on a daily basis. It’s about creating scenarios where everyone wins—because we all have priorities, stresses, goals and dreams. It’s actually more about workers—you—than it ever has been before. In the Gig Economy you are free to pursue the best opportunities in the best location for you. Now you can start that process from a place with the best combination of work and lifestyle possibilities. With (To), you can finally start with Where and let it lead you to your optimal situation.