Our careers permeate into everything we do. When I get invested in my work, I am no longer Anthony or the writer with the nickname Zombiepaper, I am an entity in complete service to my employer. (Oops.) We all sacrifice our humanities for money and security, though. In this first in a 12-day exploration of careers, let’s talk about “the gig life,” and how I retain, or restore, my humanity while working hard and smart.
Let’s start with the most essential tool:
How To Win Friends and Influence People is the best tool for business. Memorize it. As a contractor, consultant, or touring worker, you live and die by your rapport. You won’t be successful if you’re a jerk. Playing nicely and being friendly is more important than any technical skill you could learn before your next gig.
Find ways to bring your hobbies with you.
It’s easy for me to skip writing if I’m out and about. I enjoy writing at home most with my trusty keyboard. Some gigs have long hours. This photographed tablet is becoming my way to write rough drafts wherever, then edit where I’m most comfortable. I’m also comfortable bringing up my other hobbies in conversation.
Keep work at work.
Let’s say you’re paid to work 40 hours per week. That extra hour you spent as a salaried employee checking email is gone as a contractor. Don’t fall into that trap. Don’t worry about falling behind. If the company were in great shape, they wouldn’t be paying double/triple for outside help.
Establish communication schedules.
My success as a contractor is thanks to updating my recruiter and manager weekly. No exceptions! Schedule it! Write a daily summary toward the end of every shift for yourself then summarize it in one sentence for them. If I’m falling behind, that’s my time to prove I need help.
Enjoy yourself and the company of others.
The Gig Life is hard. You’re in a new environment with new circumstances. It’s easy to get stressed out. Don’t worry. No one is paying as careful attention to your faults as you, so laugh off spilling your water, getting lost, or calling someone by the wrong name. No one expects perfection.
Everyone expects disaster.
Every contract gig I’ve done has been to fill an immediate need. Usually, it’s a big project in trouble or transitioning employees. If you jump in, get your hands dirty, try your best, admit any mistakes forthright, you’ll usually eke out success by the second week.
Don’t be deadweight.
When you ask for help, be respectful of their time, ask early, schedule time, don’t make assumptions unless it’s a low-stakes task, and document everything. If you encounter the same questions multiple times, you can ask for specific clarifications over general instructions.
The Gig Life is all about filling in the cracks in an organization.
It’s usually contract-to-hire, or a demo videogame with a buy-it-now option.
Don’t settle unless you’re ready.
Every gig should augment your success and humanity.