The Gig economy is coming for your job. This is how you will cope

This is not some dystopian dream. Nor is this a fad. The so-called gig-economy is coming and will be a significant part of our lives very soon (if it isn’t already). The “Gig-economy” is a phrase coined to describe the “Uber-ization” of the workforce in the coming decades. It basically means that every service which could be outsourced will be, and will be done so on a demand basis. You need to go to the grocery? You’ll have someone do that for you. You need to drive across the city? Someone will pick you up. You need to submit a complex excel sheet by tomorrow morning? Someone will create it for you. Everything will be price by the deliverables, making almost everyone an ad-hoc service provider. We all realize that the job security of yesteryears is forever gone. No assurance of employment until our retirement. But we still hope to have at least a steady monthly income.

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But with the “on-demand” trend raising, many jobs will shift to a more flexible base. The services sector (including government) is the largest in all modern economies (after most of the manufacturing and agriculture have been mechanized). But this is exactly the sector which will suffer the most from this shift- no need to have so many people on the payroll- an employer can simply hire or order services on demand, reducing fixed costs and increasing his flexibility. Even sophisticated jobs like software development, IT and legal will suffer- these can easily be outsourced and consumed on demand using the global network of talents and freelancing hubs such as upwork or Fiverr.

While it is easy to dismiss the above as a simply a worrisome prediction, but it isn’t just a dystopian view of the distant future, it’s a process that is happening before our eyes, and only gaining momentum. So unless you are a barber, plumber or chef’ (these professions can’t be perform from remote and it will take many years before robots will be able to perform these tasks) you should be concerned for your occupational future.

But concern isn’t a great action plan, so instead, try to see how you can adjust to this new, albeit scary reality. In the following section I will describes the mental shift and skills required to survive this shift, and offer some tangible advise to “hack” this trend

1.      Think like a freelancer

This mind shift is extremely hard for people who were employed in full time jobs for most of their grown lives. It requires one to embrace uncertainty and forgo the monthly paycheck and job security. But it is surely better to develop this mental toughness independently and not be forced into it by layoffs. This as job as something temporary, and always think about your next one. Acquiring this mindset is hard but once it settles in it will ensure you greater flexibility and an open mind to seek new and interesting opportunities an employee is oblivious to.     

2.      Develop skills which you can sell as a service

Or even better, skills which you can sell as a service from remote. Can you write? Paint? Teach? Then there’s definitely something you can offer others. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a real “profession” or something you’ve learned in university, just something you are good at, can deliver to other and (hopefully) charge for.

3.      Find your USP- Unique selling point

This is unfamiliar for an employee, but something a freelancer knows how to articulate very well. What is it that you do that is different and better than your competition? If you provide pre-visit tips and planning services for people visiting your hometown, in what ways are you different than your competitors? Are you a foodie? Can you hook people with the coolest, under the radar restaurants? Then you’ve found your USP… now all you need to do is market it and sell it.

4.      Online presence and marketing

Ahh, marketing and sales. Most people hate these aspects of business and are happy someone else in the corporate is handling these “uglier” sides of life. Guess what? As a freelancer it’s 100% up to you to market and sell yourself and your services. The marketing is easier for most- in today’s world all you really need is a solid online presence, like a blog, facebook page Pinterest profile. You need to invest resources in making this presence as professionally looking as possible  and update it regularly. One tip I can provide- be very clear about what it is that you provide, don’t assume other people will guess that you are a designer just by vising your uber-cool blog. Create something like this which will make them wanna hire you on the spot:

http://www.rleonardi.com/interactive-resume/

5.      Sell

This is a skillset most people lack. At least on the professional side, most of us don’t deal with the actual sale and even less than that- selling ourselves. But the ability to price your service, negotiate the price, bill and charge becomes critical when your income is determined by it.  

I realize that what I’m talking about is scary and required time to digest. I’ve made this transition myself, knowing full well it will not be easy. But I’ve done so freely, without any outside pressure. I wanted to prepare myself for the complex future which lay ahead, and I preferred doing it on my own terms and not being pushed into it. Sadly, this is a luxury not many people will enjoy in the future, so it’s best to do and practice what you can now, and be as ready as you can for the day you step out of the office carrying a brown cardboard box and wondering what you’re going to do next…

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How to make better introductions

Introducing people is what I do on a daily basis. It’s an essential skill that supports your networking strategy. But it is also down to earth and tangible.

The math is simple- I know 1 guy and I know another guy. Apart their sum to me is two. Each is worth exactly one to me, and they contribute nothing to each other. Add them up and the number ascends to three and upwards, depending on the result of the engagement.

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Firstly by making the introduction I would make one or two of them happy and grateful. 

Secondly they can work things out and create some new venture which might benefit me in the future.

Lastly, They now have an incentive to introduce new people to me, which makes my network bigger and more influential. I’ve written in the past about the benefit of maintaining a large network of connections, and introductions are an integral part of the successful use of this network.

One amazing example is that I approached a guy I did not know for some professional advice via LinkedIn. I went to his place, sat for coffee and had a great talk. For the sake of easy tracking we’ll label him “A”. We kept corresponding and talking on the phone.

One day he introduced me via Email to another friend looking for a new position. I met the friend (labelled “B” from now) and promised to help him in finding a new position. I didn’t had any concrete lead but I was certain that one will introduce itself soon.  In the meantime, a partner in a venture capital firm I knew briefly (a true “loose” connection- we’ve met here in there when I was working for one of his portfolio companies) introduced me to third guy who needed some marketing advise. I met that guy (his actual name was indeed Guy, but let’s tag him as “D”) and dispensed some advice. I did notice that he was working at a startup with an amazing potential which really needed an experienced business development leader. Following the meeting, I realized they could be a perfect fit to “B”. So I made an introduction (It was to “C’s Boss, the Startup CEO, whom I’ve met by then), he went over there, got the job and has been working there since.

Amazing.

3 very loose connections (4 if you count the VC guy), who created a job opportunity which would not have been filled in any other way. Needless to say everyone is happy with the outcome, and at least 2 of these people are now very grateful to me- “A” who’s asked my help and “B” who got a perfect job due to “A” hustling.

But this whole affair would not have materialized without everyone involved receiving and acting upon well thought after introductions.  I will now provide some tips for email introductions, which in my experience in the most effective means of introducing two people (I will explore the reasons for this in a separate post. Suffice to say that Email is longer lasting, easier to retrieve and store, contains all the information and is non- intrusive).

1.      Understand why you are making this introduction

Usually one side will ask you to make the intro to the other, sometimes you will identify a good match which just “needs to happen”. Make sure you understand the motive behind the approach and that it suits your goals and overall strategy. I tend to help anyone looking for a job but less so for sales purposes.

2.      Provide the context
Explain to both sides who is the other person, what is he doing that is relevant and any other detail which will make their first interaction frictionless as possible. Full description of one’s academic history is not required, as well and the history you have with that person. It is sufficient to write” please meet X, CEO of startup V. I’ve been working with him for a while and he could really use a great marketing person such as yourself.

3.      Explain why you think there’s a match

If you think there’s business synergy- say. If you think there’s a great employment match, say it. If you think these two need to get together because they are like-minded and will enjoy each other’s company- say it.

4.      Provide the contact details, including phone numbers
Ok- this one took me years to perfect, and I think it the difference between a good and a great introduction. At the end of the email, juts add the name and cellphone number of each person. This allows them to simply follow up with a call (remember, they have been properly introduced by you) and saves at least 2 additional futile emails:” Hi “T”, how are you? My phone number is XXX, what yours?” and vice versa).

5.      Conclude the compensation you are expecting to get BEFORE making the introduction.
Ok, some people will be angry with me now, but I’m juts going to say it. If you expect something back for making the introduction, it is sooooo much better to discuss and determine it BEFORE actually making the introduction. Otherwise you’re opening an array of possibilities, all of which would be less friendly and potentially devastating to your relations with the people you’ve introduce to. I don’t expect anything in return for helping someone find a job. Maybe a beer or lunch, but that’s up to them. I do expect something if a company asks my help in finding the perfect candidate. Same goes for friends- If I introduce 2 friends from different circles, I don’t expect anything concrete in return if they hit it off. But if a commercial company benefits from my introduction, I’d like to be compensated for my know how and efforts. This could be anything from a 3% commission on a mere “intro” to a potential customer, to a much more substantial amount or promise for future role in the engagement. All depending on the conditions and all concluded before I hit “send”. This is not me being a wise businessman, this is me learning from my mistakes….

But even if you don’t make any tangible profit from the introduction, you’ve certainly benefited from it-  You establish yourself as a great networker, a person who’s willing to help and an overall great guy. People remember this and when the time comes to call in a favor they won’t hesitate to help you in return.