Last week, I invited an author of several career books to read and offer suggestions on an analysis of the post-pandemic job market that I am writing. She asked me about the importance of the “gig economy” in the marketplace. So I did some quick research on the issue this week.
More than one-third of Americans have participated in the gig economy, and many of us have purchased services from “gig workers”—people that sell services on their own instead of working from an employer.
Some questions that came to mind as I read about the issue included:
- What is the gig economy?
- What are gig workers and what do they do?
- Can workers earn a living doing gigs?
- How can workers explain gigs on their resumes?
The gig economy has existed in some form for years. It’s not really new. The new feature is that it is easier than ever for workers and customers to participate.
What is the gig economy?
There is no “official” definition of the gig economy. A 2016 US Department of Labor report I found says that gig workers include “contingent workers” and “non-employer businesses.” Also, there is no firm definition of a gig, as opposed to a job or a freelance assignment. According to the Labor Department, a gig can be as brief as responding to an online survey, or an 18 month database project. Gigs, the Labor Department says, may be found through online websites or “platforms,” and through more traditional means such as word-of-mouth.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the gig economy as “a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.” It goes on to say that “working in the gig economy means constantly being subjected to last-minute scheduling.”
Our modern gig economy, then, is what we once characterized as the market for freelance work.
Of course, the concept of a “gig” instead of a steady job is not new. Actors, musicians, and other performing artists have referred to their engagements on shows and projects as gigs for years. They have specialized resumes and websites for promoting their gig experience.
Who are gig workers and what do they do?
Gig work is available in many segments of the economy. According to US News a few of the top gig economy jobs include delivery drivers, (think Uber, Lyft, Door Dash, Gorillas Groceries, and many others), accounting and finance professionals, software developers, IT consultants, and environmental health and safety workers.
According to Wharton Business School Professor Mauro F. Guillen’s book, “2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything,” gig workers at service jobs are not necessarily low skilled workers. He observed that some gig workers that do jobs such as housecleaning are sometimes lawyers and other professionals that want to do the work in their spare time.
Can you earn a living as a gig worker?
The Department of Labor study suggests that some workers are earning a living at gigs instead of regular jobs. Many gig workers also have other jobs. They are doing side-hustles, and have sometimes been referred to as “second-job entrepreneurs” in the past.
The best strategy may be “don’t quit your day job,” or join the great resignation to do gig work. Try it out as a side-hustle first to see if enough money is there.
Much gig work comes through websites and apps. The websites and apps that match gig workers and jobs take their cut to cover the value-added they provide. Online housecleaning services, for example, have reportedly paid their gig workers as little as $0.20 on the dollar because they do all the sales, marketing, and scheduling for their workers.
How do you explain gig work on your resume.
Gig work is a form of self-employment. Treat it as any other employment for resume purposes.
There are two issues I address when helping a job seeker decide whether and how to include the information. The first is the length of an employment gap they need to cover, and the second is whether the job is relevant to the job seeker’s career theme.
Research shows that job seekers are at a disadvantage when they have been out of work for six months or more. So, if you are in this category, consider adding your gig work to your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Relevance is another issue. Your Uber driving experience may not be particularly relevant if you are usually an attorney or accountant. On the other hand, if you typically drive for taxi companies or trucking concerns it may fit perfectly.
An industrial engineer I collaborated with did gig work helping entrepreneurs write business plans that required manufacturing expertise, so this work filled her gap between jobs for factories.
As a result, it could be a good idea to take on gig work if you had to take a “pandemic break,” or if you have joined the great resignation. Just do not count on gig work as your full-time career.