How the ‘gig economy’ gives us the chance to hit refresh to suit our lives
By Kädi Horm & Lily Tidrow. Both are MACHs (Microsoft Academy College Hires), respectively Lily a MACH MBA. Kädi works as Partner Sales Executive for Central Eastern Europe and Lily as Senior Product Marketing Manager for Project & Visio in the Western Europe Headquarter. As MACHs, they have their gigs, too: they get to experience a number of roles with changing teams and locations. They share their experiences and tips here and in the videos below.
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 That’s because we’re waving a collective goodbye to outdated notions of success.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 dynamic careers that give us the opportunity to try new things and explore our passions to make a living. Our generation doesn’t like waiting around for things to happen; we want to make them happen on our terms.
These changes in working attitudes are fueling 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. Musicians coined the word gig 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 among us to sell our wares on a global marketplace, while blogs and social networks like Instagram and YouTube help us build a profile doing what we love, and start generating attention that can help turn passions into careers.
Corporate managers understand that injecting a regular flow of external perspectives and fresh creativity can help them grow their organizations.
These changes don’t just benefit us. 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 organizations. By embracing project based working they can also adjust focus and resources as needed. Meanwhile, we get the flexibility we expect to try a wider variety of roles in different environments.
As part of the Microsoft Academy College Hires (MACH) program, we have our own gigs too. We work flexibly in fast-paced environments and get to experience a number of roles. We’re given the opportunity to collaborate with a range of talented colleagues, partners and customers, using the tools we love.
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?
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 organizations 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. It can be rewarding to get the chance to share your knowledge and experience while helping your firm to contribute to the community perhaps in new and innovative ways.
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 from our generation. But having creative ideas is no use if they can’t be expressed in a way that grabs attention and gets the message across.
As millennials, we’re used to trying a range of tools to get our work done, so keep experimenting with new ones that suit you. A couple of ideas could be trying technology that helps you share ideas and information in a visual way, or services that analyze 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. We know more than anyone that two heads are better than one, so collaboration is key. Start by setting 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.
Switching jobs or roles more frequently means we’ll need to get used to working with different teams, in different locations and across different industries. With all the technology at our disposal now, there are really no geographical or technical barriers – it’s our attitude and ability to share ideas and resources that is the key to success. Being ready to plug in and get started immediately will make moving around that little bit easier and improve collaboration 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 with securing the next gig.
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 careers continue to follow a traditional path? We say – 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.
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 we’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. As digital natives, we understand that you’ll naturally be 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 us all make a greater impact on the world and lead its digital transformation.