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I’ve been meeting many unhappy people who are working part-time on a project-to- project basis as independent workers. Often their career history includes a long stint at a traditional employer with full benefits. After they were laid off, they were only able to land temporary or project work for an open-ended period or a short-term contract. They have no health benefits, no protection against discrimination, no social security, no disability and no unemployment. They are unwilling participants in the gig economy.

What is the gig economy, how big is it and how will it impact you? There are almost as many definitions as there are estimates of its size. According to Moneywatch, the gig economy is part of the labor market that includes contingent work, often transacted in the digital marketplace. It has also been called the sharing economy, peer-to peer economy (like Uber), the on-demand economy or freelance nation. Estimates range from a low of .4 million people in the online gig economy, according to a Brookings report, to a high of about 48 million people (US Accounting Office), depending on the definition.

Take the case of an IT operations/project manager, who worked for 15 years on the staff of a telecommunications company. After a lay-off, she has had more than eight temporary assignments from IT staffing companies over the last ten years. The median project length was about eight months. After each assignment ended, she took months to land another temporary project or gig.

If you are in entertainment, publishing, certain types of information technology, commodities, finance, transportation or even higher education, chances are that a number of opportunities are short-term and lacking in benefits. But, this doesn’t mean you have to be a contingent worker for life.

There are plenty of career options that are growing and hiring people into regular jobs due to the high demand for these services. Some of these include: digital marketing, e-learning & training, health information, big data, robotics and many others. In subsequent posts, we will explore ways to escape the gig economy, as well as ways to enter some of these new exciting fields.

If you need help with figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, contact me at 973-544-8296 or jscherer@21stcenturycareer.com for a complimentary consultation.

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