The class of 2018 is facing a challenging job market. With employers planning to hire fewer new grads than in recent years. Couple this fact with debilitating student loan debt and credit card bills and many young workers may be resorting to finding a side hustle to make ends meet.
“The corporate ladder that many of us intended to climb has now become more of a step stool,” explains Marion McGovern. “This changing landscape requires a clear explanation of how new college graduates can succeed.”
McGovern is a gig economy pioneer, the author of Thriving in the Gig Economy. Long before side hustles were commonplace, McGovern founded M Squared Consulting – one of the first Gig Economy talent intermediaries. She is also the founder of Collabrus, a company focused on independent contractor compliance.
McGovern stresses that everyone from recent college grads to people with decades of work experience must consider finding work on the side that helps supplement income and provide an option B just in case the full-time job doesn’t work out. She suggests mastering these two skills early, as both will help with not only side hustles but with finding full-time employment.
Skill #1: Grit
Grit is the ability to accept setbacks, learn from your mistakes and demonstrate resilience. Grit is essential since a large part of professional level gig economy work involves rejection. Independent workers may apply for all sorts of projects—many of which they are unlikely to win. Regular employees (once they are hired) don’t face the constant concern that they may not find new work. When they can’t find a new source of income, independent workers need to get over it, seek another gig and move on.
Another essential aspect of grit for aspiring gig workers: you must have the tenacity to stay motivated. There won’t be a boss there to inspire you about the value of your work, you have to do it for yourself.
Skill #2: The ability to say “No”
Many people don’t like confrontation. Freelancing provides a great deal of flexibility and freedom from office politics to a certain extent, but along the way, there can be some confrontations. Because you are running your own business, you are the only one who can make the tough calls. You may need to tell a client that something they ask you to do is not within the scope of a project.
As employees, we are all used to doing whatever the boss says; if you are working on ‘X’ and are asked to do ‘Y,’ you pivot and do it. As a freelancer, it is not that simple. Freelancers contract for deliverables. If the client asks for something above and beyond those deliverables, you are facing scope creep, and the deal must be renegotiated. That is an awkward conversation to have with a client, but it is an essential one. And then there is the danger of delinquent bills.
When you are running the business, you need to make that problematic calls too. No one likes to call a delinquent client, but it’s worse when you’re not getting paid.
The benefits of upskilling
McGovern also preaches upskilling or learning additional skills related to work, as a way to stand out among the sea of potential hires and freelancers.
“Smart gig workers learn to maximize their opportunities to participate in training programs, especially leadership, communication and conflict resolution courses. Take advantage of those opportunities. You should also become well-versed in other important soft skills, such as collaboration and design thinking; these are both characteristics of a successful gig worker.”
To learn more, check out McGovern’s book Thriving in the Gig Economy.