The “Gig” Economy – Is It For You?

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When I hear “gig”, I think of grungy musicians loading up a van with equipment and unloading in a smoky dive bar. So when I saw the panel of entrepreneurs and other seasoned professionals, in trendy attire, sitting in the front of the room ready to speak to the St. Joseph’s University student and alumni of the Master of Organizational Development and Leadership program about the “Gig” Economy, I wondered what it was all about. I saw no instruments in sight.

According to Google, the Gig eEconomy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. Who knew?

As a recent MODL graduate myself, I was very interested in this arrangement. After 30 years in the corporate world, burnt out and tired of the politics, I wondered if this could be my next path. Did they love it, did it give them freedom, did they use their gifts and talents, and get paid for it?

Panelist Brian Mattocks, the founder of RentASmartGuy, a boutique marketing and communications firm, said “I’m scared and hungry everyday”. Yeah, that’s not what I wanted to hear. “But then that makes me start fresh everyday. Every time it doesn’t work is a chance to grow in the moment” OK, I settled in to hear more.

In addition to Brian, the other panelists were Angela Edmunds, President and Founder of Style Showroom 77 a multi-service design and events company; Mona Pandeya a seasoned OD professional working as an internal consultant for several large organizations, currently at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Kip Wetzel, an IT consultant at Navigate Corp., which helps clients with business solutions.

Moderators, Kim Braxton and Sharlene Goldfisher asked the panel several questions.

· What leads to success in the Gig Economy?

· What advice do you have for those interested in being a Gig Economy worker?

· What strategies to you have to bolster your sense of self?

· What “Gig” practices can I use to remain versatile in my own organization?

Angela Edmunds, who started her business as a side gig while a student at Temple University many years ago, talked about her experience. Her diverse service offerings include fashion design, brand development and special events. Her success is due to being a chameleon to the client by changing her approach depending on the client’s needs.

For those embarking on this journey, she says to prepare your path and ease into it. Find what you are best at and ask yourself the question, is there a need for you? What do you have in comparison to what’s already out there?

Successful entrepreneurs in the Gig Economy have passion, but it was suggested that they must fully understand the unique value proposition they have to offer every single client.

Are you ready to take risk? Do you have the grit and tenacity to weather whatever comes up? It can be a huge success, but also take a toll financially and personally. Do you have discipline to run a business, look for opportunities and build relationships? How are you showing up each day? Can you structure your day and make your own path? It’s a lot to think about.

Brian and Angela own their own businesses. Brian said this edge is what kept him learning and growing. “You can’t be complacent,” he said. “If something isn’t working, determine what you need to do to change and do it. Every time it doesn’t work is a time to grow. This is your life. Just live it. Just go do it.” Angela agreed. "Identify it! Own it! Work it! Network it!"

There are ways to have a “Gig Life” within an organization. There are ways to redefine your self. The “intraprenuer“ focuses on innovation and creativity, and transforms an idea into a profitable venture, while operating within the organizational environment.

Kip and Mona took this path. Through self-reflection, they assessed the risk and determined that the best way to do meaningful work that interested them, was to be an internal consultant. Mona stated "I have created jobs for myself in the last three companies I worked at. Everyone is on the GIG economy.” Kip added "It is not black and white. You don't need to say 'I'm Gig or not Gig' You find a way to be an entrepreneur with your own company."

Discipline, risk and curiosity are frequently associated with success in the Gig Economy. The panelists added transparency, honesty and integrity. They urged the audience to continue to be curious and look for opportunities.

As I networked after the panel, with students, teachers and alumni, everyone was excited. In the Organizational Development and Leadership world, we strive to create processes and motivate leaders to provide meaningful work for all.

Musicians love what they do. Artists feel if they don’t create their work, they suffer. The show up for a period of time to make the world a better place. The “Gig Economy” is not so far off from my original vision. There is a different path for all with the passion and perseverance to bring their talents to the world.

About the Author

Susan Jordan, MBA, MODL is a May 2018 graduate of the Master's of Organizational Development and Leadership program at Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia.

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