Consumers have welcomed gig apps like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash with open arms, which has made gig employment as on-demand as the services the apps provide.
But some gig workers don’t feel nearly as welcomed when they try to re-enter the traditional job market, and they wonder whether their experience dashing from restaurant to customer to restaurant counts as job experience at all.
To them, it certainly feels like work. But do hiring managers for typical W-2 employment opportunities view it the same way?
We asked career experts from Goodwill, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) to weigh in — and offer advice on how to include a side gig on your resume.
Experience Counts — Including Gig Work
Most Americans have dabbled in the gig economy, according to several recent reports, including the Federal Reserve’s latest research on economic well-being.
People turn to gig work for different reasons. Displaced workers may deliver food while they find more stable employment. College students might chauffeur on weekends to help manage school costs. Aspiring writers might try to pick up their first clients through Upwork.
Whatever your reason for taking on a side gig, you need an exit plan to avoid staying in the gig economy for too long.
And when you’re ready to return to traditional employment, being able to show that you were doing something is crucial. Showing gig work is much better than having a huge, unexplained employment gap, says Debbie Grant, who oversees career center services at Goodwill’s middle Tennessee branch.
“It shows that you’re not just sitting around doing nothing,” she says, “that you have reasons that you want to work.”
Because of the tight labor market, employers are willing to look beyond traditional work experience, says Tony Lee, vice president of SHRM and an expert in talent acquisition. And for entry-level jobs, any previous work experience is a plus.
That isn’t to say that your delivery driver gig is going to land you that dream marketing job right off the bat. But hiring managers are typically willing to consider gig experience, “if it’s packaged nicely,” Grant says.
How to Include a Side Gig on Your Resume
The best way to package your job application nicely is by taking a close look at the job description and matching the skills that you learned or honed through gig work to the skills the new job requires.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) weed out applicants. They scan your resume for keywords related to the job description. If your resume doesn’t include those keywords, it won’t make it to human eyes.
“It’s all about transferable skills,” says Lesa Shouse, the director of USFSP’s career center and a certified professional resume writer.
Highlight Transferable Skills With a Functional Resume
Don’t be ashamed if gigs are the only type of work on your resume. Instead, let the skills you learned from your gigs shine through what’s called a functional resume.
What is a functional resume? It’s the best resume format for applicants with non-traditional work history, according to Grant, Lee and Shouse.
“Functional resumes work best because you don’t have to list chronological work history,” Grant says.
Instead, the top two-thirds of a functional resume should focus on “transferable skills.” Use this space to focus on a specific skill set relevant to the new job and list your accomplishments in that area.
For example, gig apps tend to have large customer-service and efficiency components to them. A functional resume lets you dedicate space to why and how you have those skills.
In place of typical employment history at the top, such as “Uber Driver, November 2017 to October 2018,” Shouse says to demonstrate your experience by using bullet points that could say: “Managed five to ten deliveries per hour, maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.”
Ratings and reviews are a large part of gig-economy platforms as well, and they can work to your advantage on a functional resume.
“If you can list that you were a five-star Uber driver,” Shouse says, “that brings to life and truly demonstrates the level of experience, the level of skill that you have in customer service.”
Bring Your Resume to Life During the Interview
Making it to the interview stage is the hardest part in transferring from gig work into traditional employment. The interview itself is a good sign. It indicates that the employer is willing to consider your type of experience for the job.
“When you’re in the interview, you can really take those bullet points [from your functional resume] to the next level by sharing specific examples,” Shouse says.
This technique works particularly well for customer-related jobs. Recounting a story that adds to, and doesn’t simply repeat, the skills listed on your resume will highlight your dedication or expertise to an employer.
For jobs that are truly outside the realm of your previous experience, forcing gig work examples into the conversation could backfire. In that case, Lee says it’s best to do as much research on the company as possible so that you can position your answers in the interview around how you’re going to help the company reach its goals and fulfill its mission.
“Don’t go into an interview for a job that has nothing to do with your gig assignment and start talking about [it],” Lee says. “But when you get asked about it, you need to be able to respond.”
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He specializes in the gig economy, career trends and work-from-home job opportunities. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.