A job for life has been replaced for many with a job for the day.
Lifestyles and career choices have changed rapidly with technological advance and societal evolution creating trends that were rapidly accelerated by the seismic economic shocks of the 2008 financial crash and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
The traditional model of joining a company straight from school and leaving it as a pensioner has evaporated. Data from the World Bank shows that 46 per cent of the global workforce were self-employed in 2019, equating to about 1.6bn people.
More recently, research from jobs matching service Indeed Flex revealed that almost 10 million people were working in part-time or temporary positions in the UK in April 2022.
Part-time working can come in many forms, from side-ventures conducted outside normal hours to long-term reduced-hours contracts or a patchwork approach that stitches together a multitude of small gigs to pay bills.
Working in this way can allow people to fit fee-earning jobs around childcare, caring or other responsibilities; it can boost mental health and generate a sense of control or freedom; and in many cases it can lead to higher income.
Part-time working can also be good for your career. Here are three questions to ask yourself to make the most of the opportunity.
Can this part-time job boost my future career prospects?
Part-time working can be a means to an end, a successful way of paying bills and finding fulfilment. However, it can also take you towards a future career goal – in some cases quicker than a full-time employed role can.
Freelancing inherently creates flexibility: it gives you the chance to move swiftly – should opportunities arise – to build up experience, contacts and skills that will prove useful in your longer-term mission.
A 2019 study by business schools from Belgium, China, the Netherlands and UK concluded that “resources that are built through networking appear to be decisive for freelancers’ career success”.
For example, let’s say you ultimately want to become a finance director. Instead of being stuck in a junior job with limited career progression opportunity, as a contractor you could be picking up short-term placements using different ERP systems, meeting key individuals and generally improving your chances of one day landing your dream role.
Gig working brings with it a certain unpredictability that you can use to your advantage, opening doors to jobs you didn’t even consider while stuck in a traditional career path.
If you’re working in this way with a longer-term career goal in mind, ask yourself what you can take from each individual assignment to help fill in the bigger picture.
Contractor vs employee: which is better for my career prospects?
There are many ways that working as a contractor can help you move up the career ladder.
Covid-19 changed working practices in a significant way, and many employers have since pared back their overheads and moved to a model of fewer centralised workers, lower rent and pension payments and greater reliance on technology and freelancers.
A PwC occupier survey last year found that major UK employers planned to reduce their combined office portfolio by up to 9 million square feet. Meanwhile more than half of US hiring managers polled by gig economy marketplace Upwork said the proliferation of remote working as a result of the pandemic had increased their willingness to use freelancers.
All this means opportunities exist to take on extra responsibilities by working under your own steam.
For example, you might take on a temporary part-time role as finance systems administrator, do it well and gain trust. A few months later you might get a call when a more senior position has become available at the company – either to fulfil it as another contract or even to apply for the full-time role.
Working part-time can also give you business and networking skills that increase your employability. You will need to learn how to make your own venture work, inevitably making you more useful to other organisations.
When considering freelancer vs full time, or contracting vs permanent, both individual and client organisation need to consider the pros and cons. Very often there is a clear benefit for going down the non-traditional route.
Can I avoid being pigeonholed by this part-time job?
It is easy to be pigeonholed in any job but especially so as a contractor. If you start working freelance after leaving a job in a particular sector or role then you’re likely to have contacts and experience that lends themselves to gigs in that area. It can become a closed loop.
Again the key thing is to ask yourself what the end goal is. If you are driving towards a senior role that requires lots of skills and experience in one industry or particular job function, there is no harm in remaining highly focused.
If you’re looking to pivot into another area then come back to question one and ask yourself what nuggets you can take from an assignment to gradually move across into where you really want to be. There are myriad ways in which the flexibility of part-time working can be to your advantage as you make the switch.
Above all, have your goal in mind and don’t expect to get there all in one jump. Use the nature of the gig economy to plot your path from A to B.
In doing so, contracting, freelancing and part-time jobs will be able to offer a major boost to your career. The key is to have an open mind and take what you can from each assignment.