So let’s just get the bad news out of the way right now. The mythical/magical world of employer loyalty that many of us were raised with, no longer exists. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule – there always are. But, generally speaking, the rules of the gig economy are pretty clear – your employer will keep you around for as long as you are useful, and then let you go the moment you are not. More ominously, if the company can find a cheaper way to get the job done rather than keeping you, they likely will do it. It’s nothing personal. Its just the way things are. We all know it, but we simply can’t hear it often enough: We are replaceable. We are expendable. We are commoditized. And there’s not a damn thing we can do about. Or is there?
Look, I can understand if this post is making you think that you should have listened to your instincts and used the internet for what it was made for – funny cat videos on Youtube. But there is good news in the gig economy.
The good news is that, with the right mindset, you can survive, and even thrive, in it. That’s right. Everything I just said about the company’s power over you is true. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless to create success for yourself. Quite to the contrary. Your success is entirely your responsibility. And I think that’s a good thing.
In the film business, where I got my start, we had the advantage of knowing where our jobs – our gigs – were going to be ending the moment they started. Sometimes it would be a day. Others a week. Or, like my first gig at Disney Feature Animation, it was 2.5 years. But I always knew that unemployment was immediately around the corner waiting for me. And that’s the power that comes from accepting the gig economy for what it is and taking control of your own destiny. Our jobs – our gigs – are only worth keeping for as long as they are valuable to us. That’s the power that each of us has in the gig economy. We have the power to decide which gigs we are going to take, under what terms and for how long. And that can give you a lot more power than you think.
Why? Because, when you’re attuned to a gig economy, it puts your focus, your loyalty, where it rightly belongs – on your survival. Which, in this case, is a gig. Which, perhaps ironically, isn’t just better for you – it’s better for the company as well. Why? Because the gig economy rewards those who give their gig everything, all the time. So you see, in this way, the needs of the individual (to have the project look great) are entirely aligned with the needs of the company (to have the project look great). It seems so simple, but it’s the way the gig economy works. You and your employer are only as good as the last success. And, at least for you, your last success is what’s going to get you your next gig. It is, in fact, a perfect symbiosis.
And that’s the bottom-line of the gig economy. It’s brutal for sure. And it does make it hard to ever catch a breath. But if you can keep your goals aligned with the company’s, and keep your focus on your survival first, you may just find – as so many of my friends have – that the gig economy doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.