One of the emerging trends in today’s workforce is the shift toward more contract work and shorter tenures for employees in general. The “gig economy” has arrived, and while there is debate about which side is driving the change, everyone has to grapple with it in their own way.

As I’ve been helping military personnel transition to corporate America for more than 25 years, I’m often asked what veterans think about this shift toward shorter-term employment. I’ve found there are three primary reasons military veterans may be wary of participating in the “gig economy.”

  1. Financial Security
    Except for very senior military officers (or ones with very specialized skill sets) who can instantly turn their military experience into a consistently marketable consulting gig, most transitioning military members would take a permanent job over a 1099 “gig” in most cases, even if the 1099 “gig” pays more. I believe that the relative financial stability of military life makes it difficult for the transitioning service member to imagine putting their family’s financial future at risk. When you’re in the military, you know exactly how much your paycheck is going to be now and a year from now — you can even confidently predict what it will be three years from now — so you can plan your life on a longer-term basis.
  2. Adequate Training
    Military members are accustomed to getting significant training throughout their careers to provide them with the skills needed in their next job. The “gig economy” puts the onus on the individual to seek out (and in many cases pay for) educational and training experiences they need to be competitive in the market.
  3. Growth Opportunities
    Most of the veterans we work with ask about growth opportunities within the companies we are presenting to them. They are used to having a structured career path in the military and most of them enjoyed the stability in knowing what was likely to happen next. By definition, there is no set career path in the “gig economy.”

It is an odd dichotomy, isn’t it? Many military members often risk their lives in doing their jobs, and yet most are risk-averse when it comes to their employment. This is the same reason a lot of transitioning veterans shy away from commissioned sales. They see it as “risky” and are often willing to accept less potential upside in exchange for a more stable flow of income, training and career growth opportunities.

During the downturns of 2001 and 2002 as well as 2009 and 2010, Lucas Group did see an increase in 1099 opportunities for our transitioning military veterans. But even those contracts were between 12 and 24 months long, so there was some sense of stability and a set date for when they’d need to find another opportunity.

All things considered, once the transitioning service member has a few years of civilian work experience under their belt and gain more confidence in the business world, some of them are more willing to take on risk. This could include transitioning to a commission-based sales role, or even taking an entrepreneurial leap of faith and starting a business.

Gig or no gig, there are boundless opportunities for transitioning military personnel to enter the civilian workforce. The key to success is determining your comfort level with risk and change, then trying to find a happy medium in our ever-evolving modern economy.