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Use Your Personal Brand in the Gig Economy

Are you ready to be cast in the workplace with your personal brand as you would be cast in a Hollywood movie? A huge workforce trend is the movement toward a gig economy, one that resembles how the movie industry works. Think about how a film is made:

  1. Someone wants to make the movie and finds the money to fund it.

  2. The key players are secured: the director, producer, and lead actors.

  3. Everyone else is hired, each person bringing special skills to the set.

  4. The whole crew works on the movie for as long as it takes to complete the project.

  5. All the people hired for the movie say their goodbyes and move on to look for their next gigs.

Many workplaces now function this way, and many more workplaces will do so in the future. As a result, workers need to be agile and able to clearly communicate what they can do and who they are.

Having a strong personal brand will serve you well in the gig economy. Instead of hoping that someone notices you and offers you steady, long-term employment, you must be prepared to take your personal brand on the road and leverage your skills. Chances are, you may not be an employee in the future; you may be a free agent.

Be project-oriented

The workplace has become project-oriented. More and more work is being organized into smaller segments that are facilitated by project teams. Projects are a great way to grow your brand because they have a beginning and an end, have specific deliverables, and often have measurable results.

Start thinking now about how you can take on more project work, and you’ll be taking a crucial step toward becoming more employable. Toward this end, stop thinking like an employee and start thinking of yourself as a company of one offering your clients the best service that you can provide.

Consider an example of how a project gig may work: You join a project team and work on a project for two years. That project ends, and you take what you have learned and join former coworkers at a start-up business. You work really hard to build the company, and it’s sold to a larger company.

You leave and go to work for a competitor where you settle in for three or four years. That company merges with another business, and you leave to set up your own consulting firm. This type of transition goes on until you work fewer and fewer hours — not necessarily retiring, but at least modifying your work to fit your older lifestyle.

Engage in lifelong learning

Proponents of higher education argue that you need to be an educated person to make it in the world. Proponents of vocational education say that you need to develop a specific skill to be useful. These days, most employers realize that both arguments are true — and neither type of education is enough on its own.

In decades past, having a college degree ensured your employability. But as recent college graduates are well aware, that degree doesn’t ensure employment any more — especially if the student hasn’t developed a special employable skill set. In fact, many college graduates are now enrolling in vocational programs, such as bookkeeping, veterinary technician, or cosmetology, to learn specific skills.

On the other hand, a vocational student who hasn’t learned to think more broadly may plateau at a certain career level with no possibility of promotion.

You always need to be learning and figuring out more about the niche that defines your personal brand. Your learning options may include university extension programs, community college courses, weekend management courses, online skill-building courses, and self-study. You can never, ever think you’re finished learning, or your brand (and your career) will stagnate.

Adjust your loyalties

Generally speaking, working for a company for 20, 30, or 40 years is a thing of the past. For previous generations, company loyalty and job longevity were one and the same. Not so anymore.

Humans can be very loyal creatures, but career loyalty has been redefined. Here’s the twist: Instead of being loyal to one company, today you can expect to feel loyalty to a project you’re working on, the team you work with, your customers, and your profession.

Everything you do should focus on your own growth and development, serving others, and serving your personal brand. The people you work for may change, but the loyalties to the relationships you build and the work you do become the portable gift you offer to everyone you interact with.

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