A recent survey conducted by LinkedIn and Harris Poll examined what success means to the typical US employee today. The results underlined several trends we’ve been seeing in recent years in what employees care about the most. Corner offices and fancy titles are no longer seen as status symbols the way they once were, while employees are more interested in learning new skills, not missing out on career opportunities, and helping others succeed as well as themselves.
LinkedIn also found, however, that Americans are heavily preoccupied with paying their bills and getting or staying out of debt:
Two out of five professionals don’t list being passionate about their job as a measure of success – instead they’re in it to pay the bills (69%). And living problem-free is a top priority, as nearly three-quarters (74%) are in it not to worry about money. This motivation is helping to usher in the age of the side hustle. Whether it’s moonlighting in an art gallery or building websites on the weekends, more than one-third of professionals today (36%) find success in pursuing a passion project or side job.
Fast Company’s Rich Bellis remarks on the dark side of these findings, noting that 68 percent of men and 76 percent of women said they considered “not living paycheck-to-paycheck” a measure of success, compared to just 17 percent of women and 23 percent of men who defined success as “having material wealth.” These gender differences, Bellis suspects, are illustrative of the gender pay gap and the relatively greater financial insecurity women experience as a result. Yet it’s “a little troubling,” he writes, that most Americans would consider themselves successful just for keeping their heads above water.
At Fast Company, LinkedIn’s Director of Product Management Gyanda Sachdeva points out that “the number of US workers with full-time jobs who freelance on the side is sharply on the rise”:
According to our data here at LinkedIn, the share of those users in our top professional fields has doubled in the past five years. What’s more, the number of people freelancing on the side of their day jobs is growing more than three times faster than the number of full-time freelancers on LinkedIn. …
For one thing, it’s clear that some people are more inclined than others to add part-time freelancing to their repertoires than others. We’ve noticed, too, that men are doing more part-time freelancing than women, and millennials are doing so more than any other age group. Of all the users who list freelance work on their LinkedIn profiles, 20% have a full-time job in addition to their freelance business. That means full-time freelancing still dominates, but the side-gig model is quickly catching up.
Sachdeva also discusses some of things motivating workers to take on these side gigs. In addition to the “obvious” financial motivation, he notes, freelance dabblers are motivated by personal branding & networking, future development, and independent work. Plus, there is the possibility of transitioning to a career as a full-time freelancer, which some see as a path toward flexibility and control over their schedule and work environment. I would add to that list purposeful work, or feeling connected to something you are passionate about. Basically, Sachdeva makes it clear that there are a lot of upsides for employees—especially young, cash-strapped, passionate millennials—in freelance dabbling.
But does it benefit their employers?