In my previous article, I introduced the concept of the “Gig Economy”: the increase on free-lance, contract, project, part-time and multiple jobs that is signaling a change on how we see “career”, work and the entire job-search process and employer/employee relationship.
The Gig Economy, we noticed, can be a story of horror or a story of success: there are no guarantees of stable income or benefits and skills and a proactive and independent approach triumphs seniority.
One of the main tools to help you navigate the Gig Economy is to re-define success: many of us bought the idea of success from our culture, TV ads or our parents. We were supposed to expect a linear progression: go to college, get a job in a good company, climb the professional ladder and retire to enjoy the rewards. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case in at least 45 percent of the cases and this number is growing. College degrees no longer guarantee a good job, jobs are no longer secure and even retirement is becoming harder to achieve in an era where everything from finances to politics seems to be shaking and changing.
The good thing about taking the time to re-define success on your own terms is that you can then plan based on your real values and priorities and no other people’s expectations.
For some, success means having more time to spend in nature and with their loved ones. For others, community engagement, a circle of diverse friends or a sound spiritual life defines success. Success is no longer attached to how much we have in our bank accounts, the size of our houses or cars or even the clothes we wear. More and more, people are realizing how all those things (big houses, bank accounts, cars, etc.) not only don’t bring happiness but may even create stress and anxiety and a never-ending “need” to achieve and become busier.
Author Diane Mulcahy (The Gig Economy, Amacom, NYC 2016) suggests some exercises you can do to reflect on your own definition of success:
- The obituary exercise: write two obituaries, one that reflects the type of path your current life is following and one that reflects the path you would like to have lived. Compare both and decide which one you would like written about you when you are no longer here.
- The “dash” exercise: author Linda Ellis wrote a poem called “the dash”, referring to the space between the birth-date and death-date usually written in gravestones. In her poem, she asks: “how would you like to spend your dash”?
- Priorities and values exercise: make a list of the things you do with your time and the areas where you spend more money. On another sheet, write your values and priorities in life. Compare both: how much time and money are you currently investing in activities that reflect your values and priorities?
- Finally, define what is true success for you: what do you want more of in your life? What do you want less of?
By re-defining success and visioning the type of life your true self wants to live (and not the one provided by the TV or magazine ad) you have more freedom to decide how you would allocate your skills, time and money. This will help you to accept a much less “stable” career path but also to explore areas you never thought possible: instead of spending most of your awake time in jobs that may become repetitive, unrewarding and even boring or abusive, you can have different “gigs” where you can try all those amazing hidden interests and unused skills while still reserving enough time to enjoy life with your loved ones.
In the next articles, I will discuss how you can plan to utilize the “time between gigs” more wisely and how to plan to be financially safe in the increasing uncertainty of the growing Gig Economy.