What are you doing with your life?
Maybe you’re a recent graduate, ready to put a tentative toe on the career ladder. Perhaps you’ve been working for a few years and want to take control of your life and put your experience to better use – if only you could figure out your big idea. Or else you’re sitting at your laptop, quietly figuring out how to make your mark on the world.
What you’re probably not doing is looking for a company that you can call home for the rest of your days. That’s because we’re waving a collective goodbye to outdated notions of success. We now want – and sometimes need – to embrace careers that give us the opportunity to try new things and explore our passions to make a living.
These changes in working attitudes are fuelling the ‘gig’ economy. A working model that involves taking on lots of different jobs or interesting projects, for shorter periods of time.
The concept is nothing new. The word gig was coined by musicians in the 1920s, at the height of the Jazz Age, as shorthand for ‘an engagement’. Artists, musicians and photographers have been working this way for years. But now this style of working is about to hit the corporate mainstream with today’s technology empowering entrepreneurs. Start-ups within the sharing economy such as AirBnB and TaskRabbit are making it easier for anyone to tap into new ways to earn. Etsy allows the creatively-minded to sell their wares on a global marketplace, while blogs and social networks like Instagram and YouTube help people build a profile doing what they love, and start generating attention that can help turn their passion into a career.
These changes don’t just benefit you as the worker. Businesses of all sizes are growing wise to the advantages of the gig economy and turning to an increasing amount of freelance support. Corporate managers understand that injecting a regular flow of external perspectives and fresh creativity can help them grow their organisations. By embracing project based working they can also adjust focus and resources as needed. Meanwhile, you get the flexibility to try a wider variety of roles in different environments.
So, this flexible world suits your ambition and way of working. You can accept that our world is constantly evolving and you want to play your part. Where do you start?
Don’t be scared to blur work and play
Look at your own interests and assets and consider how they could enhance what you could offer to employers. For example, if you spend time volunteering for organisations including things like tutoring students, building schools or working in a homeless or refugee shelter during a break in studies, speak to your manager about ways that you can contribute that experience to your company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. You’ll get a chance to share your knowledge and experience while helping your firm to contribute to the community perhaps in new and innovative ways.
Creativity is your biggest asset
The ability to bring the outside world into the office, and provide a new perspective, is one of the biggest reasons businesses are looking to hire people like you. But having creative ideas is no use if you can’t express them in a way that grabs attention and gets your message across.
Experiment with tools and tricks that suit you. Try technology that helps you share ideas and information in a visual way, or services that analyse and unpick complex data to get your point across. Bring the outside in: discussions in social networks, things that inspire you and your peers or innovation you’ve seen in your daily life and share it with your teams as inspiration. Your ideas will sing if they’re centred on your own passions. Having some tricks up your sleeve in a job interview or your first meeting with your new boss could help set you apart from the masses. Set up time –virtually or in person – to discuss how these might work in your organization and how you could work together to make them a reality.
Build a network
Switching jobs or roles more frequently means you’ll need to get used to working with different teams, in different locations and across different industries. Today, there are really no geographical or technical barriers – your attitude and ability to share ideas and resources is the key to success. Being ready to plug in and get started immediately will make moving around that little bit easier and collaborate with your adopted team. Keeping track of your contacts and knowing who to tap up for support as you move around is essential, and makes working with like-minded individuals simple. The relationships you establish and cultivate will help you expand your knowledge, provide invaluable career advice and could even help you secure your next gig.
Be prepared to start again
The concept of a ‘regular’ day in the office no longer exists. ‘9 to 5’ is a thing of the past, and startups are questioning whether they even need permanent offices. So why should your career continue to follow a traditional path? Don’t be afraid to course-correct if the role you’re in isn’t working out. With employers increasingly looking for soft skills, focus on the transferable knowledge you acquire along the way when considering a jump between jobs or industries.
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To be successful in the gig economy, it’s important to bring the right tools along for the ride. According to analyst firm IDC, oral and written communication, attention to detail, and proficiency with Microsoft Office top the list of skills students need for high-paying, fast-growth jobs. Office is used at the smallest of start-ups through to the majority of Fortune 500 companies, meaning that you’re ready to be a part of the team from day one, whatever the environment. Office 2016 combines familiar tools like Word, PowerPoint and Excel with new ways to work together, play out creative ideas and visualize complex information, like OneDrive, Sway, Sunrise, Wunderlist, Outlook, Skype, Yammer, Delve and Power BI.
But perhaps the most important skill required in today’s gig economy is reinvention. Being born as a digital native means you’re naturally more inclined to explore new technologies. Exploring this desire to grow will help keep you hungry, willing to learn and ready to share your ideas. As the skills needed in the workplace change, having the ability to adapt will help you make a greater impact on the world and lead its digital transformation.