The gig economy as student jobs

For years, whenever I thought about the gig economy, I noted to myself that gigs are great for students, who like to be flexible with their time and don't need a lot of money, but not so great for others.

This is not a particularly original thought, so I didn’t pursue it any futher. That’s why it took me until last Sunday to realise that gig jobs being the same as student jobs is not at all a coincidence.

Picture a typical Silicon Valley start-up. Now ask yourself what kind of job experience the founders and employees have. They have start-up experience, obviously. Also, many will have gone to university and have taken on the odd student job. But that’s about it for most of them — certainly if they were recruited young.

Not a very diverse job experience. That shows in their products.

Uber drivers; delivery people of various sorts; warehouse employees; the average start-up employee sees clearly that these are not highly-paid professionals. Not like them, in other words.

So what are they instead? Given the start-up employee’s limited job experience, there’s only one possible answer. They are what the employee was when he was a student: flexible; doesn’t need a lot of money; happy with whatever he can find, and with great expectations ahead.

Besides, wasn’t their student time the most wonderful time of their lives? Consequence-free frolicking with the certainty of a well-paid job at the end? And weren’t these odd student jobs that they took on great for the people they met and the experiences they lived through? Let’s give others a chance to live our charmed life as well! That’s our mission! Aren’t we wonderful?

And why stop at start-ups? Don’t managers of big companies, who fire their lower-educated workers and hire them back as “freelancers” suffer from the same lack of real-world job experience?

Just a thought on a rainy Tuesday.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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