Becoming a mother is a transformational moment in every sense. Of course I knew it but some of the changes really took me by surprise. The change in the course of my career was something I was not prepared for.
I have a Bachelor and Master degrees in Communication. I worked for +5 years for London’s inward investment agency and in 2013, I started my own Language training company, focusing on teaching foreign languages using acting and theatre methods.
But the births of my two sons within a 2-year period changed it all.
My dream of starting my own company or finding a great full-time job vanished overnight despite all the help of my husband, our families and kindergarten. I know there are many women who find a way to balance two kids and a fulltime employment well. However, for many of us, it can be very intensive and exhausting. I was suddenly in the middle of mountains of diapers, walking around the house with a baby in arm from 2-3 am every night and learning about children diseases and googling for advice on baby foods and so on. There was simply not a brain cell left for the first 9 months after my firstborn’s birth to spend on work related thoughts. The few moments of sanity I had left I spend on advising my husband on his startup company.
After I survived the initial crazy period and I adjusted to the demands of motherhood, my desire to learn and work came back fast. I applied for a few fulltime jobs but their time requirements quickly led to the realization that I just couldn't join the workforce fulltime with one kid who came out of the nursery at 3 PM and me being pregnant with the second one already. Add the typical weekly/monthly sicknesses of kids to that and I would have been out at least an additional 2-3 days a month to care for my sick child. Seeing how my husband struggled putting enough hours into his startup to make it work, I also quickly realized that working on my startup company had to be put on hold. I do not resent this. But it was a sad decision and for a few days, only the smile of my baby boy could make me forget about it.
But then something happened. I stumbled upon some great articles about the rising gig economy. I recalled how some of my friends who entered freelancing recently were loving it. Of course, freelancing is my answer, I thought. I made up my mind immediately. I enrolled in a 4-weeks course in Rome to acquire a teaching certificate and then started as a freelancer at a Munich teaching company. I am now teaching a few Italian courses a month that fits my timeline and I can balance my two kids time requirements with the on-demand jobs that I apply for.
Turns out I am not an exception. A recent study by the US Freelancers Union found that 53% of the freelancing economy is comprised of women. The old economy was a man’s world where +40 hours/per week of physical presence in the office were a minimum requirement to get promoted. It was a time where after-work drinks and networking was key to build the relationships to get into the good old boy’s club that ran most companies. And years of experience counted more than the actual skills a person had. Well, not anymore!
The arrival and growth of the gig economy helps women to win in this new workforce revolution where skills count, freelancing is normal and you don't need to put in useless hours in the office to get ahead. Already 34% of the US workforce is on temporary contracts and the trend is rising.
In this new world of freelancing, skills are the most important asset companies are looking for. More and more jobs will require concrete skills rather than a full-time presence in the premise. You will get hired based on your skills and how well you deliver and not who you know or go to after-work drinks with. You have more flexibility in terms of work hours which is great not just for moms but for everyone. Another upside is that you don’t have to deal with the traditional expectations of the old work place.
Plus, you can work remotely with diverse employers from different countries or cities and expand your horizon. Good communication skills will be very important since you are not meeting your employers every day. Women may fare better here since women are said to be better communicators than men in general. Best of all, you manage your work volume so you can actually have a good work-life balance.
One important aspect of the gig economy is fierce competition which means we need to be smarter in how we show our skills. It’s time we start exploring new ways and tools to better manage and build our professional reputation. It’s crucial that we present our knowledge and experiences from the biggest to the smallest in order to get noticed. A dynamic CV is needed which consolidates and presents every experience which contributed to our skills and knowledge. The Zyncd platform is one great example of a tool to help you manage and build your professional reputation. You can use it build and synchronize your skill profile across various networks, find jobs or gigs, build meaningful connections and also allow you to identify skill gaps so you can work on gaining new skills to boost your employability.
So ladies, while trying to change this old-enterprise economy from a man’s world into a woman’s world, let’s also work towards owning the next version of the future of the workforce. And dear men, don't worry, we are much kinder bosses anyways, so we will let you go home early when we rule this new workforce world.
By Federica Miazzi
Freelance Language Teacher, CEO of Language-On-Stage and mother of 2 boys