Gigster designer working from home

Finding Your Mentor in the Gig Economy

Shama Yunus Joynt, Human Resources

By Shama Yunus-Joynt BA, CPHR, SHRM-SCP

The gig economy continues to rise and expand into new markets. General estimates place gig workers or “giggers” at 50% of the workforce, with an increase to as much as 80% by 2030. There is a common misconception that workers become giggers because they can’t find full-time work. This is only true for some; as many as two-thirds of independent workers choose to be giggers. Greater flexibility and control over one’s work life is cited by many as the reason for choosing gig work, particularly for more experienced workers who become independent contractors. Technology has made it possible to work wherever and whenever. Still, others work in companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and Skip The Dishes to name a few, where technology allows them to enter and exit the workforce at will, and work the hours of their choosing. It appears that traditional employment is less common than before – so what are the implications for workers?

Gig workers are not a new thing – the industrial revolution gave rise to gig work as people came to large centres to work in factories. The work itself was defined and regulated by owners, and workers were seen as expendable resources. It was through the development of trade unions and other institutions that employment laws, pension and benefits were born. Holding a ‘job for life’ became the norm in the 20th century. Recently, the advent of technology made alternate work arrangements available, ultimately leading back to gig work; people could connect with available work rather than to full-time jobs.  

two photographers who are gigster-mentors

The advantages and challenges of flexible work are common knowledge; the uncertainty of income is seen as a trade-off for the ability to work from home and control one’s time. However, what is less obvious is how giggers can progress and grow professionally when they don’t have access to a structured corporate environment in the same way as their full-time counterparts.  Gig workers don’t usually get onboarded, trained, promoted or off-boarded. They go from assignment to assignment receiving job-related feedback only, and don’t usually get the benefit of connecting with mentors who could take an active role in their development. Some giggers might be missing out on a great deal of collective knowledge and wisdom, unless they actively seek a mentor.

Gig Workers Need Mentors

Research has shown that mentored workers are more satisfied and committed to their professions, receive higher performance evaluations and higher salaries, and progress faster in their careers. Full-time workers have more ready access to potential mentors and more opportunity to receive constructive performance feedback, as well as career development opportunities. This means that gig workers may need to avail themselves of mentors in order to fully develop their potential. For these independent workers, connecting with other professionals happens entirely through their own effort and drive – they have to actively seek out connections through networking groups, social media platforms and the like.  

A entreprenuer is mentoring a young gigster woman

However, for many independents, this can be a daunting endeavour. Some people are not natural networkers; they work largely in isolation and struggle with the social aspect of networking and of meeting new people. Connecting with a mentor is more personal than simply networking. You need to find someone in your field that you admire and want to be like, then find a way to meet them one on one so you can exchange stories and find common ground.  I find that meaningfully mentored relationships with other professionals start exactly this way. You don’t require a formal mentoring arrangement – what you really need is to be clear about your goals so that the people you talk to can understand how to help you. It is amazing how many people truly enjoy helping others develop and succeed; once you get to know someone, you will determine fairly quickly whether or not they can be a mentor for you based on their attitude, knowledge and professionalism. Needless to say, you can also find books, keynote speakers and publications to help you along your journey.

A gigster woman managing her business

Understanding How To Be A Gigger

Finally, independent workers need to understand how to be a gigger. Whether you are self-employed or incorporated, being a gigger is the same as running your own business. You will need to run your finances like a business, but more importantly you will have to build your personal brand and reputation in order to get the contracts, or the amount of business that you need to survive and thrive. Make sure to connect with mentors who can advise you on how to run your business; your professional expertise may or may not translate into the skills necessary to profitably sustain your business. Giggers all too often give up on contracting and look for full-time work to get that steady paycheck; when what they really need is a good mentor to show them how to be a successful businessperson.


Shama Yunus Joynt, Human Resources
About the Author

Shama Yunus-Joynt is an experienced Human Resources professional specializing in culture and engagement. She has a background in coaching and mental health which she combines in a very unique way towards helping companies define and execute an extraordinary people strategy. Connect with Shama on LinkedIn to learn more about her. 

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