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Get used to multiple jobs: gig economy the new norm for millennials

[Holding multiple jobs is the new norm in 2016, especially for millennials.]

Millennials had better get used to short-term contract work, or “job churn,” according to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Having to juggle multiple jobs is the reality for more and more young people, Morneau said at a recent meeting of the federal Liberal Party’s Ontario wing, with high employee turnover and multiple career changes becoming the new norm.

While job churn—also known as the gig economy—is a far different labour landscape than how our grandparents toiled, millennials seem to be embracing it. A survey by Kelly Services found that millennials often juggle a job that largely pays the bills with others that satisfy their creative urges or allow them to contribute to causes they’re passionate about.

There are advantages of the DIY economy to workers.

“One element that drives the gig economy is that millennials and even Xers like this flexibility in their work, and a lot of full-time jobs that do not offer that level of flexibility,” says Byrne Luft, country general manager at Kelly Services Canada. “There’s also more creativity in the workplace and more autonomy. There’s also a percentage that prefer [this] kind of work [over full-time]; they could be stay-at-home parents.”

Handling various gigs also gives people the chance to see what’s out there and find out if they’re really as passionate about a given area as they thought.

A report released earlier this year by FlexJobs found that one third of millennials want part-time work coupled with freelancing on the side. However, Luft says that juggling multiple jobs is often done out of necessity rather than choice.

“If there’s a sweeping statement to say millennials are liking this type of environment, I’m not a believer in that,” Luft says. “Every generation is on circumstance, and most people want the stability of a job.

“The challenge is that millennials, like many other generations, don’t get to go into their area of work right out of the gate,” he notes. “There needs to be a level of realization when they leave their tech training that they have to start somewhere and they have to work their way up and not make assumption that just because they’re tech-trained they’re going to get full-time work or get the big job.”

How to get that permanent single position

There are ways to stop the churn.

“The most effective way to find full time job or a job you want, based on what we see at Kelly, is networking,” Luft says. “It is really powerful. People who are effective at that never apply for a job. Being very strong networkers is important.”

Another piece of advice? Don’t rely on technical training alone. The Kelly survey found that hiring managers in the most hard-to-fill niches, such as engineering, say their greatest challenge is finding candidates with the right mix of hard and soft skills—in other words, interpersonal and social skills, communication abilities, and emotional intelligence.

“Many employers will argue that interpersonal skills and working in a team are more important than the tech training that one has received,” Luft says. “Go discover and do research on your own self-awareness and understand where you have some possible weaknesses in that area. People can go anywhere to get tech trained, but you have to have the soft skills as well.”