Kat Boogaard

Dear Kat: What's the Deal With the "Gig Economy"?

Blog Post created by Kat Boogaard on Oct 9, 2016

Let’s face it—finding a new full-time job can be tough at times, particularly when you’re attempting to do so in a downturn. And, enough time spent submitting application after application only to hear crickets in return can usually inspire you to do one of two things: Either cry out in pure frustration or start looking at some different options.

 

So, today’s “Dear Kat” question is definitely a timely (and likely relatable) one for many of you. One Pink Petro community member asks:

 

I’ve been searching for a new full-time job for a while now, but I haven’t been able to make much progress. I’ve heard a lot about the fact that the workforce is making a shift toward more contract workers and project-based work. Is this true for the energy industry as well? Should I start looking for gigs instead of jobs? And, if so, how does all of that work?

 

Alright, so this is an awesome question—but it’s also one that has a lot of parts. So, let’s break this down and take a look at each individual piece of the puzzle.

Is the workforce really shifting?

Do you want the short answer? Yes, things in the workforce really are changing. You’ve probably seen the countless articles that assert that in just a few more years, there will no longer be “employees”—there will only be contractors. Some research goes as far as to suggest that 40% of America’s workforce will be contingent workers—rather than employees—by the year 2020. That’s not far off!

 

Take a look at some large-scale companies, and you can see that these changes are already rolling. Uber, for example, has only 2,000 employees—but over 160,000 contractors. That’s a ratio of 80 contractors to every one employee. Pretty crazy, right?

 

And, while Uber may not be in the energy industry, this workforce trend is far-reaching. Most employers now hire fewer full-time employees in favor of bringing on more contractors. Much of this has to do with limiting the costs of staffing (health insurance headaches and retirement plans, anyone?).

 

While I’m not quite convinced that we’ll do away with the full-time employee model altogether, I do think we’ll continue to experience some pretty dramatic changes in the composition of our workforce. And, I also think it’s a trend that’s worth exploring if it interests you!

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Does this apply to the energy industry?

I know what you’re thinking now: This change in the workforce doesn’t apply to you. That’s only happening for people in more creative fields—like writers, photographers, designers, or web developers, for example.

 

But, rest assured that the “gig economy” isn’t just for those people in tech or creative industries. There are independent contractors in all sorts of different roles and positions, as the below chart shows.

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However, as someone in the energy industry, things might look a little bit different for you—in the form of temporary employment, as opposed to true freelancing.

 

And, while there are some that argue that this temporary model only reduces productivity for energy companies, it doesn’t change the fact that many still rely on that format to meet staffing needs for larger projects. That way, they’re only paying for the manpower when they truly need it.  

How do you get started?

Alright, so you get it—things are changing. There’s a new model on the block. But, how do you toss your hat into the ring and get involved in this new way of work?

 

Your first stop should be to check out some of the job platforms that specifically target temporary, remote, or contract work—such as Upwork or Guru. I’ll be the first to admit that these often offer way more opportunities for creative freelancers than they do for more traditional roles. But, do some digging and you might find some viable options. Both sites have user-friendly categories that are especially easy to navigate.

 

Another thing I recommend? Not immediately clicking away when you notice that a job listing is for temporary employment. Yes, I know that’s likely what you’re conditioned to do when you’ve grown so used to only looking for full-time positions. But, temporary and contract employment is the way of the future, and you don’t want to be left behind.

 

Basically, the point is this: When hunting for a job, don’t limit yourself into a small box of only full-time employment. There are alternatives out there for you to explore. And—who knows—you might just like them better than the standard 9 to 5 format you’ve grown used to!

I’m feeling hesitant about the gig economy. Is that normal?

With all of that being said, I completely understand if you’re still a little uneasy at the thought of not heading into the same desk at the same office day in and day out. This new workforce is a big adjustment—so, naturally, it takes a little getting used to for all parties.

 

Don’t work yourself into a frenzy thinking you’re unadaptable or inflexible—you’re definitely not alone in your resistance to immediately accept the new.

 

As Pink Petro community Jane Henderson—who has spent 11 years working in the oil industry—says about the gig economy, “I would rather have a full time position with a company rather than work on a contract basis and jump from company to company never settling in. While I like learning new skills, I also like a familiar place with a consistent work flow.”

 

Change can be anxiety-inducing. And, in the end, maybe you’ll decide that this “gig economy” isn’t ultimately something that you’re interested in pursuing. However, it’s still important to get the information you need in order to make an educated decision about the future of your career.

 

Weigh your options, see what’s out there, and then take steps forward from there. If nothing else, you’ll know that you left no stone unturned.

 

Have a burning career question you want answered? Let us know and it could inspire the next “Dear Kat” column!

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