Why Gigging Could Be Your First - or Next - Career Move

Always dreamed of returning to a snow covered campus to teach a Winter Study course?  A career shift towards gigging might be a vital step towards making this a reality. When most people think about “gigging,” they immediately think about young people working as Uber drivers, taskers, or engaged in some other form of part-time and generally low-paying work. While some giggers do fall into this category, this is only part of the growing gig story.

Gigging cuts across demographics, geography, industries and age groups. In fact, I’m constantly amazed by the variety of giggers I meet. They range from recent college graduates to C-suite-level executives to tenured university professors. Moreover, for a growing number of people, gigging isn’t a side hustle but an intentional way to keep learning, growing, networking and increasing their net worth. But could gigging be your first or next career move?

Who Is Gigging and Why?

A 2017 study by Prudential found gigging is increasingly common in professional fields. Business and finance, arts and design, and media and communications are among the top six sectors where people report gigging on a full-time basis. People who gig in addition to full-time jobs are most likely to work in the IT sector, but many of these individuals also work in the architecture, engineering, business or finance sectors. Still, there are notable differences between why people gig at different points in the life cycle.

Boomers and Generation Xers often but not always gig because they need to make more money to respond to a specific life change (e.g., a separation, child attending college or need to cover elder care expenses for a parent). Millennials are more likely to gig by choice and more likely to work in professional fields. In fact, according to the Prudential study, Millennials are “most likely to cite ‘just needed a change’ (22%) as an impetus for doing gig work. Nearly half (49%) say their gig work is an important step in their long-term aspirations, and 29% say it helps them figure out what they want to do.”

Three Reasons to Consider Gigging

  • Investigate Potential Careers and Network: As suggested above, especially for recent graduates, gigging can be a great way to explore potential career roles and build up a professional network. In fact, for recent graduates, gigging can be just as impactful as interning but, unlike most internships, it doesn’t require one to work for free. When you gig, you can learn and network while you earn.
  • Explore Entrepreneurship: Whether you’re just starting out or a mid-career professional, the leap to entrepreneurship can be frightening. Going out on your own means taking risks. Gigging is a great way to test the waters and find out if you’re risk-tolerant enough to run your own business.
  • Expand or Diversify Your Skill Set and Knowledge Base: Perhaps, you’re already enjoying an established and successful career and want to continue learning and growing. While one can sometimes do this on the job, most organizations support horizontal moves (e.g., a move up into management) more readily than they support lateral moves (e.g., a side-step into a different role in a different division). Gigging can be a great way to take control of your own desire for a lateral move (e.g., exploration of a new field or role). As an added bonus, if you’re gigging, you’ll be acquiring new skills and knowledge without decreasing your income.

Potential Pitfalls

Before you venture out into the gig economy, there are a few things to consider. First, while there are exceptions to the rule (professionals can make more gigging than they do in salaried positions), full-time “giggers” tend to make less than their salaried counterparts. On top of the compensation issues, when you gig, you also typically forego healthcare and other benefits that come with salaried jobs. Of course, in this sense, gigging is not unlike working as a consultant or simply running your own business. Sure, there are risks but the gains can also be huge.

In my work as an executive coach, I increasing cross paths with professionals of all ages who are embracing gigging because it offers a higher degree of choice, exploration, impact and job satisfaction.

The beauty of gigging is that you mostly likely can start to test the waters while you’re still employed full time. Perhaps, your gig will entail teaching a course on campus in the future? With attention and intention, you can seamlessly weave time on campus with the work you love.   

Camille Preston ’93 is the founder and CEO of AIM Leadership. A psychologist by training and experienced leadership coach, Camille’s past and present clients include Fortune 500 companies, government and military organizations, not-for-profit organizations and individuals seeking to optimize their performance. A recognized thought leader on virtual effectiveness, Camille is also a sought-after speaker and the author of two books: Rewired and Create More Flow. After Williams, she earned a PhD in Psychology from the University of Virginia and advanced training in leadership from Georgetown University. A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.com.