Being Unemployed Doesn’t Make You Unemployable

(This is a blog about interims, but it could be about anyone who has come to a hiatus in their career. Sometimes you just have to wait for the right role to come along.)

Every contractor will know that feeling of leaving a role and not having a new role to go to.

The nature of the gig economy is such that sometimes you simply have nowhere to go for a while. No matter how well you think you have planned your next move, all sorts of factors might conspire against you. The summer may be a little slow, businesses might be cautious in the wake of the latest Brexit news or the right person simply might not be able to make a decision right now.

So, you are out of a job. No matter, you have funds to tide you along for a while. This is what you signed up for, but just because you are between jobs doesn’t make you any less of a fantastic prospect, surely?

Well, in theory that is the case, but you have to get inside the head of a hiring manager first. If given the choice (and there is always a choice) of someone with similar qualifications who is currently coming to the end of a role and someone who is not currently in a role, there is nearly always an unconscious bias towards the person in work. Even if their contract comes to an end in a few weeks (when they likely find themselves unemployed for a while), the preference of the employer will be marginally toward them.

Honestly, this is ludicrous, and this kind of thinking simply has to stop.

As the gig economy expands at breakneck speed, we all have to rethink a few beliefs. In the world of permanent employment, not being in a role does carry a certain stigma. Not many people would choose to put themselves in that position, but for the contractor who has a six-month agreement, their activity is naturally far lumpier. They would rather wait and turn down a contract that isn’t quite right than work for the sake of working (and be miserable).

I often think that the stigma that is attached to being “out of work” sometimes forces contractors into accepting projects that aren’t quite right for them. Theoretically they don’t need the money immediately, but they feel compelled to take certain offers because they feel that they should be working. It might be too much of a commute, it might not be in their area of expertise and it might not be for the same money, but a job is better than no job. However, because of these compromises, they end up dissatisfied, they leave early and if they are not careful a slippery slope can begin.

The most experienced contractors are happy in their own skin, they are confident that an employer worth their salt will look at their experience and ignore their well-deserved past two months of playing golf. After all, they work hard enough when they are in roles, don’t they?

Maybe it simply needs a mental shift. Rather than thinking that they are between jobs, it might be better to see these gaps as part of the job. They can rest, recuperate and ensure they are physically and mentally ready for the next challenge.

It’s all part of the job for a contractor in the gig economy.

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