unemployed can't find a job. Why I Tell My MBA Students to Stop Looking for a Job and Join the Gig Economy

Scarce Traditional Jobs or Plentiful Independent Work?

The job market has changed severely since the Great Recession (though massive layoffs occurred before). The United States’ unemployment rate still hovers at 5.0% (4.9% in the UK). What also hasn’t changed much, as recently reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the number of ‘unemployed persons’: 7.9 million.

Without question, this is a significant number of people dealing with unemployment. And the number of ‘long-term unemployed persons’ (those without jobs for 27 weeks or more) is worth noting: 2.0 million people.

I must also note the following from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in reference to job openings and labor. I want you to compare the number of ‘unemployed persons’ (see above) to this data:

“The number of job openings decreased to 5.4 million job openings, a decrease of 388,000 from July. The job openings rate was 3.6 percent in August. The number of job openings decreased over the month for total private (-348,000) and for government (-39,000). Job openings decreased in a number of industries, with the largest changes occurring in professional and business services (-223,000), durable goods manufacturing (-29,000), and arts, entertainment, and recreation (-28,000). In the regions, job openings decreased in the South and the Midwest.”

It isn’t hard to see changes in the labor market with these statistics. It also isn’t hard to see the benefits of considering alternatives to the primary, traditional income stream (i.e., a corporate or public job), when you’re finding it hard to get a job offer.

In her latest piece entitled, Why I Tell My MBA Students to Stop Looking for a Job and Join the Gig Economy on the Harvard Business Review website, Diane Mulcahy, MBA Adjunct Lecturer at Babson College and Author of The Gig Economy: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want, discusses another option for making legitimate money – outside of the traditional workplace.

She presents this option to her MBA students (though also relevant to Bachelor’s and Master’s degree-holders outside of Business Administration). But not before advising them to:

‘Stop looking for a job.’

Mulcahy knows her advice sounds odd. She knows we (at some point) earned these degrees with the expectation of getting a decent paying, full-time job – with benefits – in the traditional sense. This is the popular route people have been taking for years.

There’s a problem nowadays, though. The number of quality, full-time jobs has faded over the years. Mulcahy writes:

“. . . jobs aren’t what they used to be. Growth in the number of jobs is stagnating and full-time jobs are both insecure and risky. Companies no longer make promises of either professional or financial security to today’s workforce.”

She adds, “Where there was once jobs, in the gig economy there is now just work.”

For these reasons, she advises her students to “focus on getting great work instead of a good job.” She suggests they join the ‘gig’ economy – and become independent workers.

“Twenty–30% of the working age population do some form of independent work, according to McKinsey’s Global Institute, and that share is growing rapidly.”

There’s opposition to this economy: lack of job stability, lack of job protection, lack of job benefit, and displacement of full-time workers. However, persons participating in the gig economy cite a few benefits of independent work.

“Inherent in the gig economy,” writes Mulcahy, “is the choice, autonomy, flexibility, and control that drive worker satisfaction, but which full-time employees often lack.”

Now here’s a disclaimer: I’m not writing this piece for you to commit to low-paying ‘gigs’ while you’re unemployed. Instead, I’m writing to inform you of another way to work (independently), earn a fair wage, and solve the problems of others, using your talent and your skill.

This is why freelancing stands out. It’s at an all-time high, too. The Freelancing in America: 2016 report finds “nearly 55 million Americans are freelancing – 35% of the workforce.” This number will only rise by 2020 – and is something you should be aware of as the workforce changes.

Why should you be aware of this? It’s a different path to consider in this tough job market. You see:

Looking for and landing a job wasn’t a challenge for past generations. They kept their jobs for years. It’s different today, though. It’s harder to secure a job offer – more or less job security. All we can do is adapt to this new economy. Accept the truth surrounding the workplace, professional paths, money-making. And move on.

Move on in the best way for you. Moving on, when you’re going through unemployment, might mean continuing your search for traditional employment. On the other hand, it might mean pursuing an alternative path in your career, such as providing a service for money. It’s your choice, of course. But remember something I always say here: when unemployed and can’t find a job– especially for a lengthy period – it’s helpful to consider every alternative available. One of which is the crux of Mulcahy’s article: “the pursuit of independent projects.”

Now, what you should know is: embarking on an alternative path to full-time employment isn’t for everyone. It requires you to explore and research. To take a risk you might’ve never before considered. To put in work, wearing several hats: administrator, manager, marketer. It also requires you to face rejection head on.

But, it provides an opportunity build (and improve) your talent(s) and skill(s) to positively impact others. An opportunity to make money to meet your needs – without punching a time clock, if you choose to stay away from the cubicle.

Worth further pondering, right?

You can check out Mulcahy’s full article by clicking the link below:

Diane Mulcahy, Why I Tell My MBA Students to Stop Looking for a Job and Join the Gig Economy │ The Harvard Business Review

P. S. If you’re interested in learning more about the Gig Economy, then Financial Times Economic Writer, Martin Sandbu, explores it, with others, in the video below:

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