Job vs. Gig: What’s the Difference and Why It Matters

By Kristen Harris

We’ve been hearing a lot about ‘gigs’ lately, along with the ‘gig economy’, and you probably have some questions. What exactly IS a ‘gig’? What’s the difference between a ‘job’ and a ‘gig’? Is one better than the other? Most importantly, why should I care? How does it affect me?

Let's start with a few definitions. 

Job - A job is work done for pay. Jobs may be piecework, hourly, salaried, task-based, project-based, and many other options. When we hear the word ‘job’, we typically think of a specific role in a company that you do regularly with the expectation that you’ll return every day indefinitely.

Gig - A gig is a job that lasts a certain period of time, often the life of a project or as long as the company has that specific need. It can be short-term and specific in length, or long-term and lasting as long as the need continues. All gigs are jobs, but not all jobs are gigs.

With gigs, we often think of the music and entertainment industry, but in today’s world this term can be applied to all types of industries and roles. It’s especially common in the creative, IT and technology fields because of the flexible employment model that accompanies the gig economy.

So, back to those initial questions...why should I care, and how does it affect me? Because the world of work has shifted over the last 20+ years, and is continuing to change rapidly. Work looks different, and people think differently about their work.

All work is becoming more ‘gig’-like in nature, regardless of the employment structure. The traditional concept of being in one job for life is inflexible, outdated, and as rare as a unicorn. Because it’s what both people and employers want, jobs are starting to look a lot more like gigs. A gig can turn into long-term employment if that’s what both parties want, but with the (perhaps unspoken) understanding that both parties are committed to each other as long as it makes sense but with no expectation that will be forever.

People want new challenges, fresh ideas, and different opportunities. They no longer stay at one company, or even in one type of career, for their entire work life. An individual may pursue a variety of different types of work, concurrently or one after another. They move companies frequently, and expect new opportunities even if they stay at the same company. This is what a gig mindset gives them, whether the work is packaged as a salaried position or some other option.

Experts predict that by 2020 as much as 40% of the workforce will be contingent (not salaried employees of a company). We’re already working in the gig economy. It’s here. How will you make it work for you?