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Workers Satisficing Careers By Cobbling Jobs Together

Jun 27, 2011

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It can be tough finding a regular job in the tough economy that many Americans are enduring. To earn a living, some folks are working multiple part-time jobs — as many as six or eight of them. The New York Times profiled some of those workers Sunday.

For instance, there was Louise Gassman, 28, who earns from $1,800 to $4,000 a month by working, "as an actress; as an assistant to dance instructors at the Circle in the Square and Juilliard schools; as a baby-sitter; and in a variety of administrative roles and as a spinning instructor at SoulCycle, an indoor cycling studio in New York."

And today, the freelance job site Elance released a survey of its workers that describes very similar circumstances. Together, they paint a picture of people satisficing — a word coined to describe the search for adequacy (and combining "satisfying" with "sufficing.")

According to the site, the average freelancer is a female Gen Xer with a college degree, making between $25K and $50K — around what Gassman reported.

The June 2011 survey was based on 1,500 responses from freelancers, according to Elance.

Other datapoints from the survey:

  • 31 percent of the freelancers are Baby Boomers (born 1940-1964).
  • 45 percent say they prefer to work by telecommuting most of the time.
  • 41 percent say they use social media to find jobs.
  • Regionally, 24 percent of respondents were in the Southeast, and 21 percent in the Midwest — two places hit hard by the economic slowdown.

It probably won't surprise you to learn what most freelancers said was the best part of their job: controlling their own schedule (90 percent).

In New York, Louise Gassman told the Times that was the case for her, as well. Without being able to control her schedule, she said, she wouldn't be able to go try out for the jobs she really wants.

The Times story cites federal data showing that "1.9 million college graduates were mal-employed and had multiple jobs, up 17 percent from 2007."

Their use of the word "malemployed" reminded me of a PBS report on college grads who were determined to work — even if the jobs were horrible and paid less than $10 an hour.

And NPR's Road Back to Work series followed six people as they tried to nail down jobs while struggling to make ends meet.

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