Looking to get out of the office and work directly with the public but not sure about a long term commitment? The gig economy might be the best next step for you.
First, find your joy and do your homework. Research customer service opportunities in your chosen fields of expertise or consider restarting your career at an entry level position. Visiting a local job center in your area is a great place to start! Having spent many years teaching, I knew I wanted to continue work in human services, so I decided to begin working with senior citizens.
Next, experiment with different gigs or part time jobs to find the right combination for yourself. Now is your chance to find the perfect work-life balance. Last year I did ridesharing, but ultimately couldn’t get enough hours to justify the position. Now, in a new part-time gig at the local adult day services, I know that I can count on 25 hours weekly. Plus, I enjoy my time with the elderly, which makes it easy to share in the joyful moments of those I work with. For example, one 92-years-young senior citizen is able to board my minibus completely unassisted! And caregivers such as hers pass on positive feedback to my supervisor and director about my seamless drop-offs and pick-ups, too. No matter your clients, customer service clearly counts.
Then, network, network, network, and show off those people skills! About a year ago, I landed a temp gig at the local community college as an office secretary. It ended, but I left with the names of 10 new community members with whom I had worked professionally, and many of them endorsed me on professional networking websites for soft skills such as customer service, communication, and relationship building. I also spent some time working at the library, and made 10 more local connections. All of these new contacts worked across the county and various branches, and might lead to an opportunity for a new gig or part time job. It’s always refreshing to be able to provide new references to the next employer or have a fresh work experience to add to my resume.
Volunteer at your gig or part time job and have fun with your family! Last year, when I was a library shelver, I checked my email regularly and always scoured the listings for volunteer opportunities. Once a month or so, I would meet, greet, and pitch in with librarians from branches other than my own to work various community spring and summer festivals. These events were family friendly, too, so my kids and husband were having a blast while I networked and showed off my finesse with the public. Win-win!
No matter where you live, it’s likely that numerous community agencies and non-profit organizations are looking for volunteers. From Literacy Councils and Community Action Agencies to shelters and soup kitchens, volunteer positions may be found through word of mouth, online volunteer applications, or listings at local community or religious centers. Volunteering can also mean helping out with your neighbors or friends in need, too — helping people is always helpful, no matter how you’re able to make the connection or which skills and support you’ll able to provide.
Get warm fuzzies. Yes, this can be achieved by keeping your slippers while typing on your laptop, but working close to home is a close second. Long commutes add stress to any person’s life! The warm and cozy feeling I get while working at the adult day services center is priceless. The anecdotes the participants and I share — or that I simply listen to or laugh about while I drive them around the county — is a lovely simple pleasure as well. My colleagues at the senior center often dance and sing as they load and unload the participants, too, complimenting any and everything that they wear or do. And the enthusiasm is contagious! It’s wonderful to share positive customer experiences with my co-workers, and they make my job fun.
Beyond providing meaningful work, strong employee engagement is one of the most attractive elements of any job or volunteering situation. The gig economy increases our opportunities for finding work that engages our skills and interests, which means employee engagement and employee satisfaction may be higher than ever in these new situations.
Not by a long shot! For many people, the gig economy is just that — a series of gigs. Restart as many times as you want, but be sure to strategize your gig entrances and exits. Positive customer engagements lead to referrals and an evolving job niche for you.
Positive experiences as an employee also improve the work situation for your employer, who may find it easier to bring in new team members based on the great environment fostered. Overall, customer experience and employee engagement continue to be two key drivers to the success of the gig economy, and keeping your needs and goals in mind can help you to be successful on both fronts.