Late career agility and the gig economy

Twice a year, I offer JOB CLUB programs to older adults who want to maintain some type of connection to the workforce after retiring from a full-time job. That might include part-time, seasonal or self-employment. Over the past few years, there’s been some focus on the “gig economy.” I can provide insight, advice and experience from a different point of view.

 

Actually, the concept of “gigging” is old news to some of us. It’s another term for self-employment. In my mid twenties I was a single mom and I wanted to work from home as much as possible. Necessity and opportunity led me to the idea of self-employment as a “special project” organizer and event manager. My first gig was coordinating a corporate fund raising campaign for Big Brothers of Metropolitan Toronto in 1976. For many decades thereafter, I secured 6 month or 12 month “gigs” planning, organizing and implementing marketing, promotional and fund-raising events along with multi-media campaigns including print, tv and radio. If you happened to be a person seeking permanent employment, it was a good strategy to secure a  full-time position if your creativity, skills and productivity were recognized.

After some time, I got involved with more non-profit organizations, associations and cultural institutions to do training, community research and development work. My longest contract was 2 years but I had the flexibility to work remotely and manage my own time.

 

In the Older Worker (OWL) Job Clubs, I provide information about creating or securing these kinds of opportunities.

 

As a younger woman, I became so familiar with the benefits of self-employment, I realized I no longer fit into the traditional workforce. Self-employment can be a lonely road if you don’t have a strong support network – so women like me started women’s networking in the 1970’s and 1980’s.   I’m proud of my extensive portfolio of projects from Toronto to Ottawa, Barcelona and London. I’ve had some great successes and I’m looking forward to more meaningful projects.

 

Most of the time, I can manage 2 or 3 projects concurrently.  To me, semi-retirement looks like working 2 or 3 days per week. I can’t imagine not working because I love my work. I’m rarely required to be onsite, so I can still work from my home office and declare my income as self-employed earnings.

 

When corporations or non-profit organizations want or need my services, I often help secure government funding, community partnerships and sponsorships. When needed, I can structure projects to include a revenue generator to pay all expenses including my own professional fees.

 

To survive and thrive through many years of gigging, I had to become an expert at networking, deal-making, proposal writing and time management. It’s also very important to maintain boundaries and confidentiality. I usually get a good look at the inner workings of organizations. I’ve always tried to stay away from politics. 30% of my time is spent networking, planning and preparing for the following and feeding that sales pipeline for the future. That’s the best use of my time. Here’s a good and bad aspect of gigging.  I’m not perceived to be loyal or attached to any one organization. I’m like a free-agent. That can cause some problems. However,  I am attached and committed to the larger picture – the community. That’s really important. I’m able to see a bigger picture and I get to work on higher level projects..

 

I’m always thinking of needs and trends in many different sectors so I can also serve as a vanguard. I learn a lot very quickly and I’m very adaptable. That’s good. During any given week I can travel from my home town to a rural village, to a big city for work. Good stuff if you, like me, enjoy variety and shape-shifting.  I don’t have the guaranteed income and benefits enjoyed by full time employees. That can be problematic during the down times. However, it is a viable option if you can multi-task, live simply, take risks and operate without supervision and daily routine.

 

I’ll be offering more workshops for late-career work transitions in the Fall 2018 starting October 12th 10am at the London Public Library, Tonda Room. Free two hour parking.

 

Kathy Smith

London Ontario

getkathysmith@gmail.com

 

 

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