Praise the “Gigging Economy” or a more critical look into the necessity that has mothered this invention?

I love learning. I love variety. I love serendipitous learning which comes from curiosity and a willingness to color outside the lines. I believe in life long learning. On my tombstone will be these words – “But I didn’t get to read it all yet!”

So you would expect me to be the stands, cheering on and endorsing all the giggers out there, right?, because all this exposure lends itself to learning, to developing 180+ degree thinking, to opening more doors, infinite possibilities and a fulfilling life.

Wonk wonk wahhh. I’m not going that way because I don’t believe that all millennials (aren’t you millennials out there getting tired of being referred to like a school of fish? Sorry) are thrilled to be Giggers, certainly not all the ones I talk to anyway. Let me share what has been shared with me.

We have a bit of ‘lipstick on a pig’ going on here, lauding the adventurous, non-traditional paths our M’s (Millennials) are taking. You Go Giggers, out there ‘challenging the established norms of 9-5’ blah blah blah. Accumulating wealth? Nope. Perfecting, deepening and progressing  their knowledge of their profession through continuity in employment? More like stones skipping across the water. So – No. Vesting in investments plans for later in life? Nope. Owning homes? Again, mostly noooo…

Really? We ‘adults’ think this is a conscious choice of all our Ms?

Some may know I have a fairly close relationship to the world of music and the community of music professionals ( my definition being that they have studied, can read, write, transpose – all that ). Isn’t that where the term ‘gigging’ came from? There is a lot of great stuff about the gigging world but it has an underbelly. It’s not always glamorous,exciting, appreciated or rewarding. People want you to play for free, you are treated as a hired hand. You miss family events due to performance and travel dates. Homeland Security or the airlines won’t let you take your sax on board your plane. Relationships form but too often they are no deeper than the stuff on the top of your creme brulee. (sometimes a blessing in disguise). When musicians hear that someone has ‘something steady’ they acknowledge how great that has to be, how they’d love that if to just not have to set up/break down/move on to the next thing all the time. A life!

I lucked out. I worked for great businesses, large, diverse. I worked with people older than myself, younger and the same age as myself. Lots of perspectives, experience. I learned from many and I grew. I could progress my career without leaving my company; different divisions had unique challenges, needs and opportunity. That’s not typical today. We have flattened organizations, done away with the very management level positions formerly responsible for developing people even as articles ironically abound about the importance of mentoring! Those left to do and manage are often overwhelmed and managing others isn’t their strength or desire, by the way, either. Have we created a workplace where, no matter where you look, people are basically the same as you in age, credentials and experience? Are the kids raising the kids? To advance, ‘grow up’ and continue to learn, M’s have to leave where they are and go somewhere else. So to add insult to injury they get labeled as ‘disloyal’. Ughhhhh….

Ok. Yes. This is the generation that had blow out kindergarten ‘graduation’ parties bigger than my wedding reception. Yes. Many have had helicopter parents, who with the best of intentions, met every need so kids didn’t learn how to fail – and get up again. And yes. Many were told that their horrid artwork was Louvre quality. So their expectations might be a little skewed. It’s not a permanent condition. They can change under the leadership of competent management. A leader I worked for long ago reminded me that good management makes great workers out of average people and we are mostly pretty average.

The Ms I talk with want stability. They want to be part of the permanent organization, not just expendable adjuncts. They have learned to be fiscally responsible, shown themselves to be inventive. They have grown up in the information technology world – they’ll go find the answer. Sure they want to grow fast – that’s the digital age effect; action/reaction is fast in that digital world. They’ll learn – and their older bosses just might too. M’s want to be trusted to be given work commensurate with their abilities. What they lack in judgment and wisdom will come with time and experience. Nothing new about them where that is concerned; every generation faces that.

I don’t want to keep indiscriminately glamorizing gigging as if it was something necessarily chosen from a field of options. Maybe it’s just the only option left by a challenged, changing economy where fear grips fingers around budgets and VCs seek to get the most with the fewest resources including human resources. There isn’t enough kool-aid for me to believe working multiple part time jobs tethered to – well, nothing –  was intentionally invented by M’s and that they all embrace it.

I hope our Ms go on to have families, buy homes and contribute to their communities (they are incredible in this way – research shows this is the most generous of generations, readily giving to causes to advance the planet, the underprivileged – KUDOS people!) from a platform of stability. We are missing the contributions by obstructing their blossoming by relegating them to part-time, temp, 1099 giggers.

Humans have a need for belonging and meaning in what they do with their lives. Nothing new. And another thing. Living things that don’t grow, well, they wither, waste away and die. How do we synch up letting that happen to so many bright Ms with our new love of ‘sustainability’ anyway?

Necessity is the often the mother of invention and good things come of that. But is gigging a necessity? There is a sacrifice being made here that has many negative repercussions on the society we live in.

What I have written will sound like heresy to some colleagues. Let me clarify. I help clients plan their organization, staffing, succession plans, comp plans. I know you don’t just hire and staff capriciously – it’s an expense (I swore I wouldn’t say that!) I am a profit kinda gal. I want a return on my investment. But I hate waste too and I think we are wasting wonderful resources, missing opportunities discouraged from hiring because of the mislabeling of our M’s.

I sure hope for some responses from M readers. We all have work to do and problems to solve. We’re all in this together and to succeed we need to see clearly and understand.

Yours respectfully,

A Boomer that challenged the Establishment but was invited in to be a meaningful part of it.

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