Dear Sam: I know some love this new “gig economy,” but I don’t. I was laid off from my corporate IT job 8 years ago and have since only been able to find contract work. My peers—most of whom are much younger than I—tell me this is the new thing, that the “gig economy” is taking over and I should embrace instead of yearning for what I used to have. The problem is that some of my peers are fortunate enough to still be covered by their partner’s or parents health insurance, and I am not, meaning I need to be a full-time employee (FTE) in order to get the benefits my family desperately needs. I’m not just writing to complain, however! I am writing to ask how I take the past 8 years of my experience—spread over a handful or two of short- and long-term assignments—and create a resume that attracts a full-time, with benefits, role — Jason
Dear Jason: Your email has such coincidental timing, as I just sat in a room of professionals addressing this very question and discussing the pros, cons, and future of the gig economy. I absolutely understand your situation and have seen that reflected in the generations of my client base. I work with many individuals who thrive on the short-term gig and the opportunity to have change at every turn, while I also work with many who are tired of not having a “home” when it comes to their 9-5 day.
What I will say, however, from a personal branding perspective, is that you can absolutely turnaround the image on paper if you no longer want to participate in the “gig economy.” Having said that, start by compiling a list of all of your projects and start digging deeper than the project name, client, and timeline. Think about the projects you have engaged in that have challenged you, helped you grow professionally, and added value to your professional legacy. Do you have performance evaluations or letters of recommendation from any of those engagements? If so, now is the time to gather them; if not, now is the time toask for those letters.
Equipped with a deep-dive into your projects, now define the approach you need to take in presenting all of that data. Did you have a handful of longer-term assignments you can present by client or project sponsor? Or would it make more sense to present your last 8 years in one section under independent engagements? The answer depends on the structure of your employment, the duration of your engagements, and how relevant the longer-term roles are to your current career search.
The latter leads me
One of the keys to transitioning out of shorter-term project-based roles is sometimes the picture you paint for the reader (and applicant tracking system). Reinforce where you want to go by grouping gigs into a robust section on your resume that shows the strength of the past 8 years as a 1099, followed by the success you had as an employee. I wish you all the best.