Since the economic downturn, much has been written about the demise of the “long-job” (like in the ancient days of the 1970’s when people worked at the same company for a couple of decades or more) and the rise of the gig economy; a freelance, free-floating maze of projects, social media promotion and leveraging almost everyone you ever met at a conference.
Possible factors for the increased popularity of the freelancing lifestyle (or a side hustle plus your day job) are the recession and related layoffs or “re-organizations” and the ideals of Millennials, namely, purposefully employment with lots of freedom, a job far from cubicle walls and the end to the traditional workday. They don’t plan to toil in abject misery for 40-plus years, and why should they? They are already reeling from the economy with nearly a quarter of them living with their parents while still believing in a brighter financial future. Success for them will look much different than that of their Boomer parents, but their adaptability to a shrinking employment sector through near-constant skill acquisition and the ability to effortlessly slide into a spot on a new team around a new table will ensure that they do indeed experience success.
Nonprofit employment data from the 2010 Nonprofit Retention and Vacancy Report from Opportunity Knocks illustrate the serious impact of the economy on the nonprofit workforce as layoff or termination from a nonprofit organization rose from 28% in 2008 to 36% in 2010. Also in 2010, just under 20% of nonprofit employees reported leaving their jobs voluntarily after less than one year despite the bleak economic picture. The majority of those persons went to work at another nonprofit. According to the 2012 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey from Nonprofit HR Solutions , 43% of participating nonprofits plan to hire in 2012 (up from 34 in 2010), but only 25% have a formal employee retention strategy. Might such data indicate organizational gaps, not a general sector weakness in retention of a qualified workforce? Is it also possible that this is somewhat related to the growing acceptance of the gig economy and the end of the myth about having “too many jobs on your resume?” While the lack of financial security, benefits and camaraderie – unless you are lucky enough to work with a collaborative with other freelancers – are serious drawbacks (trust me on this) to the gig lifestyle, there is something to be said about finding or creating the right job for you rather than relying on someone else to do so.
I think that it’s too soon to determine if the gig economy was a response to an unprecedented economic decline or a major shift in the workforce status quo, or a little bit of both. But is it really just a Millennial thing? I know Boomers who reinvented themselves via the gig economy and a member of Generation X who is now the Executive Director of the organization she has been a part of for over 20 years (although the plural of anecdote is not necessarily data). With a still-volatile economic outlook, will the next decade see a strengthening of the trend away from a centralized employment structure and back to the mobile offices of the skilled, client-juggling freelancers?
Are you a current or former nonprofit professional now part of the gig-based economy? Would you return to a nonprofit organization on a full-time basis and give up your gigs? Why/why not?