Why I Tell My MBA Students to Stop Looking for a Job and Join the Gig Economy

Doing great work no longer requires having a full-time job.

When the students in the MBA course I teach on the gig economy ask me for the best thing they can do to prepare for their future careers, I tell them:

“Stop looking for a job.”

This may sound like odd advice to give MBA students.  After all, their degrees are designed to catapult them directly into the upper echelons of corporate America, and most students begin their studies with the goal of getting a job. The problem is, jobs aren’t what they used to be. Growth in the number of jobs is stagnating and full-time jobs are both insecure and risky. Companies no longer make promises of either professional or financial security to today’s workforce.

Increasingly, both companies and workers prefer and choose the gig economy’s more flexible and independent work arrangements and, in the process, are transforming how, where, and when we work. Twenty–30% of the working age population do some form of independent work, according to McKinsey’s Global Institute, and that share is growing rapidly.

The best preparation I can offer students is to help them cultivate the mindset, skills, and toolkit to succeed in this new world of independent work. In the MBA class I teach, there are three specific reasons why I tell my students to stop looking for a job.

The first is that full time jobs are disappearing. The private sector used to create and add full-time jobs to the economy at a rate of 2-3% per year. In 2000, during the dot-com crash, that rate fell below 2%. In 2008, the rate of job creation fell even further—below 1%—and has remained at that historically low level through 2015. Economists Larry Katz and Alan Krueger found that all of the net employment growth in the U.S. over the past decade came from alternative work arrangements, not full-time jobs.

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