I thought it was silly when I first heard a futurist predict that the next generation would have seven careers in their life. Retirement would take on a new meaning. Allow me to take this opportunity to count whether I did something similar in one day in the Gig Economy.
Two or three career choices was easy enough to imagine while working my way through an engineering job that looked like it was good for a lifetime. Few were as fortunate as me. Within my years with Boeing, I steered myself to the job I aimed for while in college: working on the next generation space shuttle. From the grumblings I heard, it sounded like most people worked in jobs, not careers, that had little to do with their dreams, intentions, and education. My Dad’s generation raised the expectation of one job for life, but then, life didn’t last as long then. A trend that went from a lifetime job, to a couple of jobs in a lifetime, to seven careers seemed unreasonable. The futurist may have been conservative with his estimate.
When I retired at 38 – (pardon the pause as I reflect on that decision made over twenty years ago) – I expected to create a new career. Conventional wisdom for such an unconventional situation was to channel a bit of Monty Python; “And now for something completely different.” Stepping right back into the role of an engineer or manager could unfortunately reinforce a personal identity based on a job title. The answer to “who are you” is not limited to a job description. Who am I? Instead of limiting that to “engineer” I can tell you I am a person who is fascinated by people and ideas – and who enjoys personal powered play time like hiking, skiing, bicycling, dancing, and such. Following that advice, I followed the advice by embarking on something completely different: putting my black belt to use by teaching a very old style of karate.
Skip forward 14 years. The karate business was shelved because of martial arts politics and logistics. Unrelated, I requested and received a divorce (dissolution in Washington State). Independent of that, my portfolio was hit by a Triple Whammy as the nation was struggling with the Great Recession (the Great Depression Part II). When I could no longer pay my bills, I stopped paying my mortgage, and I implemented My Backup Plans. In those years, I accidentally became a writer by bicycling across America, began teaching about modern self-publishing and social media before they were popular, initiated my management consulting business, and basically fielded invitations to entrepreneurial situations that would begin as soon as they found the right money.
Skip forward about 6 more years and notice that the total of all of that work, effort, networking, and patience was less than enough to pay my bills. At least I was able to negotiate a modified mortgage and keep my house. I needed something else, and became a real estate broker. Stay tuned on that venture, and be encouraged because it turns out that real estate benefits from someone who understands how to run a business, write, speak, take photographs, negotiate contracts, network, treat people and paperwork responsibly and with respect, and communicate that through social media.
At least for today, none of my ventures have been an all-or-nothing success. For today, they mean a full day built from a string of gigs that involve a mind-numbing array of business styles, tax laws, contracts, responsibilities, and discretions.
A Day In The Gig Economy
- Wake up after a fitful night’s sleep.
- Before getting out of bed (er, futon couch because the bed was sold years ago) check stocks (because I maintain some hope for my portfolio), news (because the world has gone weird in ways that affect me), and emails (because one email can change my entire day.) By the time I stood up, I’d checked on book publishing and real estate clients. Three aspects of my recovery already reviewed.
- Turn on the radio until I hear serious news about politics, then switch to online replays of the late night talk shows making serious humor from the same news items.
- Shower, shave, and make a lunch to go.
- Today, a special treat, eating out for breakfast as a way to get to know more people on the island that I normally wouldn’t meet.
- Back to the real estate office for my shift. We make sure there’s always one broker on duty for people who walk in.
- Switch hats, but not seats, to dive into more non-real estate business details. Decide what to do with a possible class in Modern Self-Publishing. Contact a fellow presenter for a duet of a talk at the local library this fall. Check in with a book publishing client about their paperback and ebook that will follow the recently produced hardback.
- Settle into managing an online museum for an hour or so, just to make sure the communications are flowing smoothly.
- Realize my next real estate shift has to be shifted because a real estate client wants to meet at the same time. Be thankful for a supportive group of brokers in our office.
- Skim then scan news sources for PretendingNotToPanic.com, a side venture that I maintain for people who are eager and anxious about the future, and who prefer news that is apolitical, factual, based on data, and consequential. That task was a lot easier until November 2016. Very little is apolitical anymore; and facts and logic are no longer in style. Consequential, ironically, has never been more consequential.
- Jump back into real estate by pulling together the paperwork for a hoped-for deal.
- Lunch! But eat quick because there’s a real estate errand at another office that has to be squeezed in before a meeting with another book publishing client.
- Sneak in a few minutes with my eyes closed to reset my brain into editor/publisher/consultant mode. Then, meet with an fascinating client to polish and submit their book for publication. Oh Microsoft Word, quit trying to be so helpful. A simple task takes twice as long as we spend as much time making changes as we do undoing the changes the programs makes while trying to help. Success! And, a very happy writer/author. Now, about that next book…
- Swing back into the real estate office to check emails, hoping to finish early enough for a bicycle ride and writing this blog (without knowing what the topic will be.) Get an email, then a phone call from a client who wants to look at a house in under two hours. Happy to help – and grab a can of soup from the local grocery for a quick, light dinner.
- Find that I’ve been invited to be part of a panel discussion about the island and security issues.
- Tour a recently listed house that, in typical Whidbey fashion, was lived in – creatively. Listen to what they want, find something possibly a lot better for less tha 10% more, then head home.
- On the drive home, decide whether to detour to the site of my next Twelve Month photo series, or head directly home to work on this blog. A little later, and the colors would be richer, but too early is too dull, so drive home.
- Get home. Sigh.
- Boot the home computer. Check emails. Send out a few to real estate clients based on what I’d just toured, including more details on the nicer properties (that are also a better fit and cheaper to live in, and realize that the blog has to be simple.
- Decide that the simplest, yet most illuminating and useful blog for one of my next books, is to chronicle most, but not all of the day’s events.
- Count the gigs.
- 1) Investing – something to continue because passive wealth generation is powerful, and is something I’m known for as a writer, speaker, and investor.
- 2) Book Publishing – something I do as a management and project consultant, which I’m well-enough known for that I’m currently working with five clients, none of which are working on similar projects.
- 3) Real Estate – and its many facets that are known for overwhelming and upsetting schedules
- 4) Teaching – one of the most powerful ways for me to connect people and ideas.
- 5) Public Speaking – ditto
- 6) Museum Management – which can sound out of place, but it is an extension of my consultancy where, according to the executive director, I’ve helped them get more done in a year than they did in a decade
- 7) News and Merchandising – an odd pairing combined in Pretending Not To Panic, but with the potential of the folks that creating “Life Is Good”
- 8) Strategic and Community Planning – because evidently someone with a variety of perspectives is appreciated (though uncompensated financially)
- 9) Photographer – even when deciding not to take a photograph, the decision making process is part of the job.
So, seven careers in a lifetime? How about nine gigs in a day?
The Gig Economy is portrayed as a panacea for those who decide to skip the corporate path. The truth is that most of the job creation since the Great Recession has been in the Gig Economy. They are unsettled jobs with chaotic income streams that require vigilance rarely experienced in large companies (and probably never by politicians – oh yeah, and I planned to run instead of simply making commentaries, but look at what I just wrote and understand why I missed the deadline. That would’ve been gig #10.)
I plan to write a sequel to Dream. Invest. Live. The working title is From Middle Class to Millionaire to Muddling By. If I waited to chronicle days like this, I’d forget too much. It is hard to keep track while in the midst of the muddling. I suspect this it temporary, but this temporary situation has been happening for over six years, there are no guarantees it isn’t permanent, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I have so many opportunities.
By the way, that “lifetime” engineering career probably wasn’t a lifetime option. Almost all of my engineering friends have been laid off or encouraged to spend more time with their families.
It is after a late springtime sunset by the Salish Sea, as is astronomically predictable at this latitude. My literary friends would encourage a more literary ending and conclusion. Accept my apologies that I don’t spend more time editing and polishing before taking what remains of my drink and enjoying it on the deck in the fading light. Tomorrow is another day in the Gig Economy. I wonder what it will bring.
(Doh! I forgot to mention the writing assignment I was arranging today. Oh well, it’s all good – and someday, somehow, good enough.)