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Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Gig Economy

I no longer have a resume that reflects reality.  Or, to put a better face on it: I have helpfully condensed my work experience for the sake of brevity and readability. As well as eliminated the first 15 years of my working life.

A life, by the way, that I was ill prepared for.

What the fine nuns at my all-girls Catholic high school prepared us for were not sterling careers in medicine, engineering, or business.  No, all they wanted was that we graduate into good Catholic marriages, eventually becoming good Catholic mothers.  If we had to work until that happened, well, it was hoped to be of a short duration, and usually in one of the pink collar ghettos available to women in the early '60s: teaching, typing, or nursing.

But that's not how my life played itself out.

Starting with my first job at 20, as a mailroom clerk in the corporate headquarters of a large grocery chain, I've worked all my adult life, though unlike most of my peers, I didn't stay in any one job for long.  That is, except for this last one, the one I made up for myself circa 1991, as a writer and writing coach.

In other words, I became a freelancer, something rather unusual at the time, especially for a nearly 50 year old divorced woman who'd only recently completed her graduate work in English, the alleged training for the made-up job.

But I was not without training in freelancing itself, having spent way too many years as a temporary secretary, a "job" that required me to hit the ground running each week, sometimes each day, at an endless round of real estate companies, law firms, ad agencies, and corporations. As a result, I knew what it was like to not know from one week to the next what my income would be; I knew what it was like to live without health insurance and other benefits, including paid holidays.

Mostly, though, I knew that despite all the risks involved in living the freelance life, it was the only one I could bear, especially if I was to find truly meaningful work. As for the money part, well, as the book title assured me, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. (I'm not sure the book promised exactly when, but I was fortunate to be born an optimist.)

And, now, it turns out that a whole generation of workers--our endearing Millennials--are not only themselves seeking the freelance life, and in record numbers, but are, in the process, transforming the 21st century idea of work.  I salute and encourage them in their quest to make their work more of a calling, and to insist that it be just one part of a well-lived life.

Which is all I ever wanted for myself.

For more about Millennials and The Gig Economy, see below.  I've excerpted bits from each link:

"According to a recent study published by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk, there are 53 million Americans in the U.S. workforce who have opted for the flexibility of freelancing rather than working the traditional full-time job for a steady paycheck. That is 34 percent of all American workers."


"I call that traditional view, 'Big Work,' and millennials intuitively understand that's not where the future is. They are, in a sense, the first generation of freelance natives. They’re embracing freelancing in a way no other generation has. And now, they’re the majority of the workforce."

"A recent Millennial Branding report found 45% of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay.  Dori Albert, crowdscourcing practice manager at Lionbridge Technologies Inc., stated that Millennials helped create a “new nature of work,” with increasing reliance on the gig economy and freelancing."

"Reports and studies seem to indicate three roots to Millennials’ discontent and the resulting upheaval: the drives for flexibility, purposeful labor and economic security."

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