The workforce has been evolving due to the integration of technology in our society today. “Sometimes all you need is a cell phone and a laptop and you can do many kinds of work remotely,” states Jo Weech, CEO and Principal Consultant of Exemplary Consultants. Weech provides business management consulting to small businesses and start-ups. Here, she offers insight into what the gig economy is and how students and recent graduates can take advantage of the opportunities that come along with it.
Current trends for students and recent grads entering the workforce
In recent years, remote work has become extremely attractive not only to startups and tech companies, but to a wide variety of companies. More companies are realizing that they may miss out on the perfect candidate because although they are unable to go into the office every day, they can still do the work. Weech explains, “So rather than hiring them as full-time employees, they hire them as contractors.”
Gig work is a very viable option for college students who have to work full time and go to school full time. This need to work can prevent students from experiencing an internship in their field. If this sounds like you, Weech wants you to realize that you haven’t missed out. She encourages you to utilize resources other than just your college careers office. She reminds us that, “Google is your best friend.”
One reason gig opportunities can be advantageous to you is that you can work for yourself. If you’re under 26 and still getting your healthcare from your parent’s plan, that is one very important benefit that you don’t have to worry about. “It also gives you the ability to try different types of work with different sized companies. This will allow you to find out what you really like,” explains Weech.
The gig economy is a great chance to try out different work environments, to see what you like best. Not everyone can afford to take a gap year and travel to Europe. This field of opportunity can be a valuable transition option for those that need to have an income.
Many people, when they think contract work, they think of Lyft and Uber. Those can potentially be great sources of income, but it’s difficult. Those are far from the only types of gig economy opportunities out there. Some of the world’s most respected employers have recruiters who focus solely on hiring gig employees.
How to work your way into the gig world
You may be saying, “I’m a history major. What could I possibly do? I can’t code in my parents’ basement, what am I going to do with that?”
Weech is very happy to report that while she was guest lecturing at George Mason University there was a student who was a history major. Weech happened to have a client that was working on a naval history heritage project and, “they were very keenly interested in this young man’s expertise and knowledge of naval history. They contracted him to work on a special project. That was the stepping-stone to his next job.”
Start by saying, “What can I do with this?” Everyone can perform work. It’s just a matter of using your network. If you don’t have one, find someone who will take your connection request and network you with the companies you’re targeting.
If these people aren’t in your family or neighborhood, think about your teachers. Leverage your community. Professors are a great resource. They often do consulting work for corporations or government agencies. It may not be directly related to your major, but it can involve transferable skills.
Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of College Recruiter mentions, “One of the things that many of the employers who advertise with us have come to understand is that liberal arts majors are fantastic for today’s economy. Critical thinking skills are probably more important than any other kinds of skills. Other skills can be taught, but you can’t teach adults how to think critically.”
Use your network to find out what jobs are out there for you. You will find opportunities that you didn’t know existed. Believe that you can!
Two key things to do in order to succeed in the gig economy
The first thing Weech recommends doing is starting your own LLC. “Before you freak out,” Weech says, “It only cost me 100 bucks and I was able to find a domain name, exemplary consultants. Once I found that domain name, I was able to get that registered as an LLC and operate under that.”
You can do this by looking online, and Weech encourages you to invest in a labor law attorney for two things. One is a contract that you can give to potential clients. A contract will help you outline your statement of work: what rate you’re paid and when and how you can terminate the agreement. The second thing is a NDA. A non-disclosure agreement makes sure that anything that you share with a client, they can’t share with anyone else and vice versa.
A NDA can be very simple. You can find templates online, but it’s a good idea to get somebody to look at it professionally. Weech describes the need for a NDA, “Anything that you create should not then be able to be marketed by another company and make them money off of your work.”
How to effectively communicate your gig experience on your resume
On your resume, you can put that you work for XYZ company and then articulate all of the different types of contracts that you do. You’re building your own brand and you’re working for a company.
You should be the owner of your own content. Consequently, if you want to add a client’s company name to your resume, you need to obtain permission. Ask them, “May I list you as a client?” If they say yes, great! If they say no, you can still say what specific work you performed for those clients.
You will face challenges, here’s how to handle them
Don’t let it discourage you. When things aren’t working out, it can be easy to just lie around and binge watch Netflix. It’s okay to take those vacations, but don’t let that become an all day, everyday thing.
Get outside of your house, go for a walk, and keep your mind engaged. It takes stamina and there is a lot of rejection. Prepare yourself for the fact that there’s going to be a lot of “nos” and unfortunately a lot of ghosting.
“That’s not going to deter you,” Weech insists, “You’re going to continue to plow forward. You already know that ghosting exists. You’re not going to take it personally. I will tell you right now, it’s not you, it’s them.”
Sometimes getting a no brings you closer to a yes. It’s bad to have people ghost you or keep giving you maybes. It’s much better to just get a straight answer. If they’re not interested, cool, their loss. Or maybe it’s just not a good fit and in that case, you wouldn’t want to work there anyway.
Sometimes people will instead say, “I’m not interested at this time.” So, take the initiative and ask them when they might be interested or why they’re not interested. It’s common to hear back from people saying, “Well, it’s July and our fiscal year ends September 30th. I have no budget left for the next few months.” Great, ok, so you’ll call October 1st.
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