Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Developing a career out of gigs and short-term work 2: gig work, in-house work, consulting work and putting them all into perspective

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on June 24, 2014

This is my second installment to a series on job search and career development, when you at least start out from a position where your only options seem to be ad hoc and more an ongoing effort to simply find here-and-now work (see Part 1: securing work and assembling a career out of smaller pieces.) And in a fundamental sense this posting is about the types of work that can be prepared for through training and experience, and at least categorically what enters into those skills and experience sets in making a job candidate employable.

• In-house employees are hired and kept on to perform tasks and to manage responsibilities that are ongoing, and that continue to present themselves at a significant enough level of importance to the hiring business to merit the hiring of staff to meet them. An in-house employee may in fact carry out what amounts to a collection of smaller jobs while at work, balancing their time between them in meeting both ongoing and seasonally shifting needs. But whether an employee focuses on one task area full time or on a suite of smaller responsibility areas, a stable and secure in-house work position has to include enough work activity to keep an employee productively busy full time when at work. So in-house employment is all about performing tasks that a business is going to need done at significant levels of activity to make it worthwhile to pay someone to do this work, and on an ongoing and even open-ended basis.
• From a skills and experience perspective, employers bring in and retain in-house employees who have skills sets and workplace experience using them, that the business needs and that are more cost effective to have on staff than to keep having to look for and bring in again. Potential costs for losing needed employees include both hiring costs and the costs associated with any new hire as they go through their learning curves in finding their way around a new employer’s systems, as well as any costs incurred from work service gaps. And as I have noted elsewhere, most of the time in-house employees are hired for their specific hands-on expertise as needed in the hiring here and now and in the immediate future.
• Consultants are brought in for their hands-on expertise too. Ultimately, businesses turn to consultants and specialist contract workers because they at least occasionally need at least some forms of experience and expertise for specific task and project-related reasons where it would not be cost effective to bring in full-time and long-term as retained on-staff. (Here, I am focusing entirely on outside-sourced consultants, and would group in-house consultants who work across a table of organization with in-house clients, as in-house employees.)
• So if in-house employees are brought in for their more standard and consistently needed skills, consultants are brought in for their more special needs skills. And they are kept on assignment with a hiring business for as long as their skills offer cost-effective benefits there, given what they do and what they cost to be there doing it. (For background material on consulting per se, see my series: Consulting Assignment Life Cycle at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 225 and following for its Parts 1-25. Many of the series available through my Guide focus on in-house employees as they address the issues encountered at various stages of their career paths.)
• Gig workers as such are hired more for the purpose of having an extra set of hands, and a great deal of gig work is less skills requiring. And when real and even significant skills are called for the hiring business generally sees them as being so widely available that potential employees holding them are readily available and interchangeable for holding them. So when it comes to gig worker skills, many if not most employers do not really appreciate the skills offered by these workers per se and certainly not as sources of distinct differentiating value. I cited the concept of umbrella jobs in Part 1 of this series: generally short term work taken on simply to bring in some income and keep a roof over your head while you look for a longer-term job opportunity. Gig work can be seen as chronically recurring umbrella work where simply making ends meet with some income coming in becomes the overall long-term goal in and of itself.
• And gig workers might be younger workers who are just trying to get started or they might be older and even expertly experienced workers who have had significant job titles and levels of responsibility – but where their past experience and skills are no longer valued or marketable as such.

I am going to focus in my next series installment on breaking out of the gig work rut. And in anticipation of that, I will address securing gig work assignments, and moving past them and building new skills and experience bases that can be used in looking for next work opportunities, and eventually in-house employment. I will also discuss transitioning to consulting work as a career path option. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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