The Hustle Economy

The Hustle Economy

By Laurie Ruettimann



Laurie Ruettimann headshotI’ve been thinking about the way we use the word “hustle” in this country. When I was a kid, it meant two things.

1. Hurry Up

2. A Con Job

The meaning has totally changed in the past five years. Bloggers and entrepreneurs began applying the word “hustle” to a set of behaviors meant to help artists, creative professionals, and unemployed financial analysts survive and thrive during the Great Recession.

Unfortunately, the hustle economy worked for six people.

While a select group of bicoastal entrepreneurs were sucking up VC money and selling career books, most of America took bogus “networking” meetings at Starbucks and watched the value of their homes plummet to record lows.

The “hustle economy” is itself a shady hustle. I had lunch at Panera last week and watched an out-of-work social-media marketer talk to an out-of-work ”life coach/consultant” about Twitter, Facebook, and email lists. Then the life coach gave the social-media chick some advice on time-management skills.

Yes, they had a productive meeting. But nobody learned anything new, and nobody generated any real business leads.

Listen, I know that long-term unemployment and idleness are terrible circumstances to endure. The “hustle economy” has served as a coping mechanism for many of my friends who are struggling to survive. If you need to call yourself a consultant to make it through the day, do it.

But you should know that times are changing.

We are in an economic recovery, and “hustling” feels a little like playing nickel slots in Vegas. The odds of hitting the entrepreneurial jackpot are pretty low.

So if you have been unemployed for more than eighteen months—or if you are a solopreneur by default and not by choice—you may want to recalculate the ROI of all that activity.

When was the last time you put down your phone and took a walk?

When was the last time you met someone for lunch and talked about something other than your job search or small business?

Have you thought about anything other than your personal brand for the past six months?

No, taking a walk won’t put food on your table or pay your mortgage; however, neither will another Facebook post.

If you really need a job, it’s time to stop hustling and start registering with temp agencies like Kelly or Spherion. Go volunteer with corporate professionals who might refer you for a job. And use your downtime to work on aspects of your life that are under your control: your conscious thoughts, your health, and your relationships with the people you love.

The Conference Board Review is the quarterly magazine of The Conference Board, the world's preeminent business membership and research organization. Founded in 1976, TCB Review is a magazine of ideas and opinion that raises tough questions about leading-edge issues at the intersection of business and society.