I’ve always loved the job title of: writer/producer/director. Looking back, I know it was more about the idea of the multi-hyphenate description as opposed to the actual careers. Being able to do three different things in one was exciting to me and something that stuck with me throughout my career in radio sales and management. In reviewing the positions I held within each organization, they all provided the opportunity to do a variety of jobs under one title.
That’s probably why I so relate to the gig economy. The term itself is rather new but the concept of “gigging” was coined in the 1920’s by jazz musicians as slang for a music “engagement” and was most commonly used in the music industry, until now. The term “gig economy” became prevalent after the economic crisis of 2009 as companies downsized and replaced full-time employees with part-time workers without benefits. In the last eight years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has come to define a “gig” as "a project or task for which a worker is hired to work on demand in a project setting." It is prevalent in a variety of industries and represents a far greater section of the American workforce than just being an Uber drive. In fact, a study by Intuit predicts that 40% of the American workforce will be independent contractors by 2020.
Pardon the pun, but the “gig” economy is “music to the ears” of many students I work with and statistics bear this out. According to the book “Generation Z at Work: How the Next Generation is Transforming the Workplace” over 75% are interested in having multiple roles within one place of employment. The “multi-hyphenate” mindset is already part of how they think!
I recently attended a webinar on the subject and with each slide of information presented, I got more and more excited about all of the opportunities this represents for high school students as they plan for college and their future:
1. It opens up how they choose their major.
Next to “what college are you interested in”, the most stress-producing question is “what are you going to major in?”. For those that know and can confidently answer “Mechanical Engineering” or“International Studies” that’s great!! For those that don’t know or are interested in a lot of different things (like I was) , it’s an opportunity to “multi-hyphenate" as a way to explore their choice of major. One of my favorite questions to ask students is: “If you could design the ideal major that had everything in it you can imagine, what would it be called?” I love the answers that I receive and it opens up all kinds of discussions about finding majors areas of interest AND provides them with the confidence and excitement to enter college with an idea of what they’re interested in and open to the possibilities they have yet to discover. This is supported by a 2016 statistic from World Bank, as quoted in The Economist that “of the more than one billion young people entering the global labor market over the next decade, only 40% will be working in jobs that currently exist”.
2. It is in alignment with their goals of finding work that is project-based and that they are passionate about.
In the values exercise I do with my students, almost every single one of them share that they want to be involved in a job or work that they enjoy, that makes them happy, as this article suggests. Additionally, a recent article in the New York Times talked about the importance of "followers" in the workplace and in society. Working in a gig economy requires many of these "follower", or "self-leadership" skills, like teamwork, time management and adaptability are the same ones that companies are looking for in their employees, as this article suggests.
3. It provides the skills, mindset and confidence to know that they can find work after college.
Whether or not your son or daughter chooses to directly become part of an industry that has already embraced the gig economy or prefers to look for a specific job, one of the advantages of cultivating this mindset is the opportunity for them to find work right after college. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review talks about how cultivating the “gig economy” mindset is a way to get work upon graduation. This gets graduates into the workforce and can lead to a job within a specific company and build their career.
The exciting part about "gigging" in the new economy are the multi-hyphenate opportunities for our children to prepare for and create a successful and meaningful future that is in alignment with what is important to them.