The Gig Economy: Stop Looking for a Job; Start Selling Your Skills

Got SkillsToday’s job market is dramatically different than it was just a short time ago.

We’re now living in a “gig economy” where one- to five-year stints are the norm and people need to plan their careers around a market that’s becoming more focused on skills rather than employment.

  • From an employer’s perspective, the gig economy is all about relevancy. How relevant are the skills you have to solving the problems my business faces?
  • From an employee’s perspective, it’s about building marketable skill sets to leverage as you move from one opportunity to the next.

So, in this skills-based marketplace, why are people still focused on finding jobs, just like previous generations did 10, 20 and 30 years ago?

The idea of “selling skills” rather then old-school job hunting has changed how I perceive my career planning; it has also changed how I view those people who will work for me.  Rather than looking at positions as jobs with specific pay and responsibilities associated, I look at them as periods in which you’re developing specific skills that will help grow our business. This philosophy enables honest conversations around each employee’s role, and allows us to work together to develop skills that we need and they want.

So instead of “What job do I want to find” the question then becomes:

“What skills do I choose to acquire and how do I position myself to receive opportunities that leverage and grow these skills?”

Here’s how to answer that question, and put yourself in the position of winning in the “gig economy” model:

1. Finding Yourself

About nine months into starting my company, Growth Spark, I had to decide whether to continue freelancing or build an agency; a team of like-minded professionals. I figured the best way to determine what hires I needed was to examine the role that I saw myself playing in the business.

So I developed what I call “base analysis,” which I conduct annually to determine what skills I need to develop. Base analysis looks at the individual tasks I perform and then asks three questions:

  1. Am I good at this task?
  2. Do I enjoy performing this task?
  3. Does this task directly contribute to growth for the company?

I get as granular as possible in evaluating the answers to these questions. Anything that scores a yes to all three, I continue to perform. This same process can be applied for skills-focused career planning to look at current (and past) jobs and list the tasks/roles you’ve performed. Focus your career planning around leveraging your strengths and going after these skills.

2. Growing yourself

Once you’ve identified the skills to develop, set yourself on a track of continual learning. I like drawing from the Japanese work philosophy “kaizen” about continuous incremental improvement. In a market where technology evolves at a pace that can retire skill sets in just a few years, continuous self-improvement is a necessity.

Luckily, many entrepreneurs have capitalized on this trend by creating alternative education companies. Organizations such as General Assembly provide online and offline courses to help working professionals continue building skills in marketing, design, business strategy, etc., at a fraction of the cost of traditional education.

3. Positioning yourself

The last piece in skills-focused career planning is about positioning yourself to get opportunities to continue to refine these skills (while getting paid). I often suggest to people evaluating job opportunities that they view themselves as a consultant. The potential employer is a client who needs help solving a particular set of issues that match your skill sets.

The most successful consultants focus on marketing themselves as a unique brand and sell their portfolio rather than their resume. Consultants continually demonstrate their expertise through blogging and social media, as well as by speaking and building a personal website to showcase their portfolio.

During college I had an internship with a consultancy that worked with startups. My boss (now mentor) said something that stuck with me:

“Learn before you earn.”

The idea of building one’s career around learning and acquiring skills develops the resiliency necessary in today’s unpredictable job market. So stop looking for a job; our economy doesn’t work that way anymore. Instead, focus on developing an in-demand skill set that can be marketed to a specific audience.

This is how you thrive… in the gig economy.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brazen Careerist!




About the Author: Ross manages Growth Spark, a Cambridge, MA, based agency that helps e-commerce companies design interfaces that convert visitors into customers. A graduate of Babson College, he is a serial entrepreneur in the technology space with experience in digital marketing, business development and strategic management.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.



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