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Redefine Your Career: Adopt a 'Gig Mind-Set'

Midlife professionals need to rethink their approach to work — and start getting gigs

By Nacie Carson

The traditional career path has a simple arc: You begin your working life, you struggle for most of your career to establish yourself, you advance as far as you can … and then you retire.

It’s ironic that once you finally have enough knowledge, experience and proficiency to make a sizable impact, you are given a gold watch and asked to step aside. 

But an unlikely benefit of the Great Recession is that this arc — with its decades-long buildup and brief climax — no longer needs to dictate how you shape the second half of your career.

Welcome to the Gig Economy. Driven by the acceleration of technology and communication, it's replacing the traditional work model (9 to 5, 40 hours a week, retirement at 65).

Take advantage of this shift by adopting a "gig mind-set," and you might embark on the most fulfilling years of your worklife.

(MORE: Instead of One Career, Trying Having a Few Careers at Once)

In the Gig Economy, professionals piece together multiple and unrelated gigs — like a jazz band's one-night stands — instead of striving to find a single full-time position for the long term.

The Rise of the Gig Economy

These days, employers are increasingly looking for independent contractors, freelancers and consultants with the gig mind-set because the firms prefer not to hire full-time employees but still need to get work done.

The gig mind-set lets professionals in the second phase of their careers — those approaching the apex of their worklife or already in retirement — leverage the new economic framework while exploiting their skill sets.

In fact, I believe adopting this approach is what separates the fittest of today's workforce from everyone else. The fittest have stopped waiting around for the job market to "go back to normal" and are instead reframing their perspectives to create new (and more interesting) career ladders.

Redefine Your Career with a Gig Mind-Set


Adopting a gig mind-set means perceiving yourself as an adaptable, independent agent not only capable of, but interested in, pursuing various and complementary career opportunities.

(MORE: What Over-50 Entrepreneurs Say About Going Solo)

Making the mental shift can be challenging, though. A good place to start is by asking yourself these key questions — the answers will help you take control of your career ladder and inspire a call to action.

  • How can I leverage my industry knowledge and my passion for the kind of work I've done?
  • What can I learn this year that will round out my skill set and make me more adaptable?
  • If I want to do more, not less, in the second phase of my career, what kinds of employers could benefit from my prior experience?
  • If I decide to keep working in retirement, what type of jobs would I want to do to make the best use of my skills?
  • Am I ready and willing to take ownership of my career and place its power in my hands?

Many established professionals feel they are just getting started when the traditional career arc dictates an ending. In the Gig Economy, you control your career arc and can explore outlets for your skills and experience for as long as you want.

Don't waste one more day of your life wondering if the stars will align to move your career forward, give you a job or reveal a prefabricated career path. Forge your own future.

Get a gig.

Nacie Carson is the author of The Finch Effect, and director of development services at Cleaver Company, a boutique professional-development and consulting firm for corporations. She has been recognized by the media for her expertise in career transitions, entrepreneurship, and work/life balance. Read More
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