The Part Time - Freelance Economy Might Be Here to Stay

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This week, I've been giving a lot of thought to the question, “What's the difference between a job and a career?” Although there are plenty of answers out there, when I talk to my friends and examine my own experience, it seems that a career is the thing that you really want to do – what you're passionate about and maybe even the field you have a degree in. It's the thing you have to do. No matter what sort of job you have, if any, or where you are, this is the thing you do no matter what. A job, on the other hand, is what you do to earn enough money to pay the bills and, if you're lucky, bankroll the work you do for your career.

These days, the job market is tight and the economy is so bad that many people with college degrees, people who have always been middle class and those who made a few bad career choices are finding that their career skills aren't marketable and that good paying jobs are hard to come by. To make ends meet, they take low paying part time jobs or work freelance in their field. Although the latter allows them to do what they love, typically they are working for low pay and may not be working in the way that they want.

It's gotten to the point where even people who have invested a great deal of time and money into their careers have been out of work for a year or more, which is enough time for the industry and more importantly, the technology, to have left them behind. For every month they spend working at a non-related job, part-time or otherwise, their chances of finding fulfilling employment in their career field decreases and their options become fewer.

I was especially moved by an article series at Gawker about the personal experiences of the unemployed. Many of the contributors are people whom you wouldn't typically expect to be dealing with poverty, homelessness, depression and addiction. These are people with graduate degrees, men who have been supporting their families all of their lives, recent college grads, navy veterans and even investment bankers. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds, have worked in all different types of industries and now, what they have in common is that their career prospects look bleak and they spend most of their time looking for odd jobs and doing whatever it takes to get by. As I read their stories, I'm continually moved by the fact that, without exception, they all mention their careers with pride, but the jobs they have been working recently haven't had anything to do with their careers.

Part of getting by means taking part-time work. Low skilled, minimum wage employers are becoming accustomed to having a stack of extremely qualified applicants. Just a decade ago, they couldn't possibly believe that they could get people with so much experience at such a cheap rate. These days, $15 an hour can get you an Ivy League educated employee, no matter what the job is. It's hard to imagine, but the 1% can actually specify which college they want their nannies to have a degree from and still get away with paying them less than $10 an hour.

While jobs are becoming increasingly more difficult to come by, real careers, the ones that don't require a salary, have been growing. In fact, places like Detroit, which have become virtual abandoned wastelands have experienced a resurgence as centers where new art is happening. There is a short documentary on the fabulous YouTube channel, POTATOwillEATyou that talks about how the empty buildings and warehouses in Detroit became the home of Dubstep, a newer incarnation of Techno music. The video, “Bang” has great footage and an awesome soundtrack. Even if the music isn't to your taste, it's interesting to see that whatever your career is, whatever you're passionate about, still exists even when you aren't getting paid. As the number of jobless or underemployed grows, more people will have the free time to persuse their true careers. I'm hoping that we'll see a huge boom in artistic expression.

Your career is what you do because you need to, because you're called to it. Even if you can't find a way to turn that passion into money, it's still worth doing. Just think of the many works of art that have been found on old barns, in thrift stores and underneath other paintings. It's proof positive that even when the artist can't afford a gallery or even new canvas, they still have to paint.

The world of scrambling for part-time work and finding the odd freelance gig might be here to stay, but you can still work at your career. If you're extremely lucky, you might be able to find a way to meld the two into something that is both profitable and satisfying.

What's the difference between a job and a career? Do you have a job in your chosen career? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Image source: MorgueFile


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  • Delana H
    Delana H
    I wish I would have read this article before I decided to quit my full-time job to work just part-time.  I thought it would be easy to find a part-time job since employers would not have to supply benefits, but I'm discovering that's not the case. I have no degree, but  I do have over 30 years of clerical support type experience and I'm good at it.  I realize now why I'm having such a difficult time finding part-time work.  Of course an employer would choose someone with a degree over a person  without.  I thought the job market was improving and did not realize I would have to compete with individuals with degrees for a part-time job.  My husband makes almost enough money to support our simple lifestyle.  We're in our fifties and I'm experiencing some health/disability issues.  I was working full time and keeping up with the household duties and it was becoming too much for me.  We thought my working just part-time would be a good solution.  This article opened my eyes to the fact that it may take longer to find a part-time job than I anticipated.  
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