Age is a Mindset

One thing that makes this easy for me is that I only acquired my Ph.D. a few years ago, and I even plan to go back to school to acquire other degrees. I think of myself as a newly minted graduate, not too different from someone in their late 20s. I am also a professor, so I also spend much of my time with students half my age. I find this refreshing. I consider myself a perpetual student and a life-long learner.

Curate Your Image

As Collegiate Gigsters, we must understand that the photos we choose of ourselves to share with the world must convey the messages we want the world to receive from us. The right photo may increase our capacity to make a connection with a client. The right photo on social media will influence the type and frequency of visitors that engage with us online. The right photo will help propel us past our competition.

Like Ripples in Water, Professional Growth Happens in Ebbs and Waves

When I decided to pursue my doctorate degree, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that I loved school and saw it as a way to continue my own personal and professional growth and development. I didn’t pay much attention to how I would grow into an academic over time, but now that I reflect on it, it was definitely not a linear process, but rather occurred in ebbs and waves.

Value and Worth – Two Things that Collegiate Gigsters Know A Lot About

The Colégas Group was something that I saw value in early on. It took work & time to demonstrate its worth to others. Listening to their input helped me see what their definition of value was and provided a guide to continue the conversation and ultimately convince them. This experience gave me a sense of how to position the company as something that would improve lives and be worthy of the public’s support.

What Is Your Prep Work Worth?

Most small businesses when given an initial quote for the design of a logo are shocked at the price. For them the shock is typically from just not understanding the work involved. Even if they do, it is typically not something they had budgeted for. They usually just revert to some home-designed logo that doesn’t meet their needs and will not increase revenue. Or they may just use a simple text-based logo that they generated on a word processor, but that suffers from the same shortcomings.

Emeritus Programs and the Inclusion of the Over-60 in the Workplace

The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that as of February 2018, the unemployment rate of those 55 and over is just 3.2%. Compare that number to 4.1% for the nation, and 14.4% for teens. The annual rate of growth for the number of people entering the workforce who are 75 and older is a staggering 6.4%. Consequently most of these new workers re-entering the workforce are hired in upper level (and high-paying) management and professional jobs…

Making “Ctrl+” Your New Best Friend

Before the ubiquity of computers in the workplace, folks regularly used a magnifying glass to read paper reports. I remember one of my professors using one to read the paper in the cafeteria. Computers have brought almost all forms of print up-close, but the problem is still there: the font is often too small. Now we need to lean so close to read that pixelated text that anyone seeing us wonders if we think it’s a place to climb into – no joke, I was asked this once. But the computer exists to make life easier with commands, and there is a very simple solution to our problem...

Tools of The Trade: A Review of the Moleskine (Digital) Writing System

 For those who are familiar with Moleskine, this is typically what your notebook looks like, but now, there is a digital version and it doesn't look much different.

For those who are familiar with Moleskine, this is typically what your notebook looks like, but now, there is a digital version and it doesn't look much different.

To follow up on my previous post about reconnecting with your joy, I am moving forward with my own joyful activity: formatting an aspect of my dissertation for submission to a journal in the fall. I know, most of you won’t consider writing ANOTHER paper joyful, but I do, so there.

Anyway, knowing that this is what I was hoping to get accomplished this summer, my family gave me a birthday gift only a writing nerd would appreciate. I received the Moleskine (Digital) Writing System. The official name does not include the word "Digital" but I add it here to point that out. So what is it, you might ask? Well, let me tell you…

The Moleskine Writing System is a way to electronically document your thoughts. It comes with an electronic pen with actual ink, and a real paper book! The cool part is that both the pen and the book are coded to a software application that records your pen strokes on the paper. Here is an image of what syncs with your device after you write in the notebook:

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The ink in the pen is black, so that is what you will see on the paper. The software allows you to choose the color of the ink that you see on the image. I chose purple (hint hint), but you can choose from a range of colors. The notebook is your paper document, and it is coded with faint dots that act like navigation points allowing the software to map and create an electronic image of what you write. You can then update the document as often as you like and witness this update in real time on your device. You can save the document to any device using the software (mine is on my iPhone).

Now you are probably asking: does it transcribe that chicken scratch into editable text? Yes, it is actually remarkably good and I only have to make a few edits. I believe it also improves over time as it becomes more familiar with my handwriting. This was the one feature I absolutely needed, and while there are other options to write on a tablet with a digital pen, this is one of the best ones that does this on a seemingly ordinary paper notebook with a pen that uses real ink! I think for academics, this is an incredibly useful feature.

It will also allow you to share notes via email, by hovering over the envelope on the upper right-hand corner of the notebook page. From your device, the software then creates a file and opens your email program. You can then send the file on to yourself or share it with someone else. It is a very well integrated app. Here is a link to their website for all the info on how it works - it is rather amazing, really.

By the way, I am not being paid to endorse Moleskine. I’m just someone who is looking to learn how technology will improve upon old-school tried and true methods of note taking, and for me, it is a lot better on paper. I see technology as a tool, so before I adopt it for myself, or suggest it to someone, I want to see how useful it is to complete my tasks. I see the Moleskine Writing System as a useful way to document my thoughts as I go about creating my journal articles. If the notebook is lost, I still have my notes backed up electronically.

Technology shouldn’t be adopted “just because”, or to be “cool”. Really…how old are you, 7?! This thing can become expensive and a waste of valuable time for academics. It is unfortunate that often I see this thoughtless approach to tech adoption in schools. Children only do 4th grade once, and education budgets are often so very tight. Before we introduce technology into the pedagogy, let’s make sure that there is documented evidence that learning outcomes will be improved…I repeat – improved! Same goes with you and what you are trying to accomplish as a Collegiate Gigster.

The Moleskine Writing System (pen and notepad) will set you back about $200, so it is not inexpensive. Therefore, make sure that this technology will help, not hinder your progress, and that it is worth your hard-earned money. It is working well for me, but please take note that it is still expensive and time consuming to adopt technology such as this, so make sure it is a useful tool with obvious and documented benefits for you as well.

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This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine! It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.

Transferrable Skills for the Over-40 Set

In a previous blog on transferrable skills, it was brought to my attention that the suggestions I made were more appropriate for those just finishing college and entering the workforce for the first time. That is true. That demographic doesn’t have the skills and experience that will help them land their dream job right away. Often, they have never worked and have only “done school”, so they need some coaching to identify what skills they did acquire while completing their education that can translate into skills that will help them succeed in the world of work…

Storytelling is Part of Who You Are

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We’ve all been there…the dreaded job interview. You’re sitting across one or 10 people (no joke, this happened to me once) trying not to sweat too much in your very new clothes. Those people are there to determine your qualifications and “fit”. The opening question is usually the most deceptively simple one of them all: “So…tell us a little bit about yourself.”

After you pick your heart up out of your stomach, you proceed to tell a protracted, off-topic account of your life story. I’m here to tell you that this is NOT what the interviewer wanted to hear, but you probably figured that out when they cut you off as you described your high school graduation party. You missed the point of the question. They want you to tell them a story. Not a story about your past, but one that places you in the company, describes how this job will add to your future, and by extension how you will add to the future story of the company.

Storytelling…it is an art. Fortunately it is an art that is an inherent part of the human condition. By this I mean that it is something we all can do. We tell stories all the time. The best storytellers have practiced this skill. Like any practice, storytelling has a structure you can follow: beginning, middle, and end.

Similar to writing an essay, the beginning includes some basic background information (where you’re from), but quickly moves on to the thesis statement (why you are the best candidate for the position). In the middle, you provide an example of a challenge that directly relates to the sort of work you will be doing AND how you overcame it. Be specific but brief. The end is the outcomes, both objective (“Our team got the account!”) and subjective (“I learned that I’m good under pressure.”). You follow up with a quick summary and give them time to ask any other questions. After this opener question, the rest will most likely be questions that elaborate on your resume or ask you to answer prepared questions.

Everything you say must be connected to the job in broad terms. If, for example you share that you are multi-lingual, be sure that you connect that to how it will be an asset to the position. You have to figure out why you are telling this particular story, in other words: purpose. Storytelling serves a purpose, so be sure you use it that way.

Collegiate Gigsters have skills and abilities that are informed by life experiences within and outside of work and school. Learn to tell stories about those experiences. Put in the work to understand the meaning and life lessons of your experiences. Doing this will help you stand out from the crowd.

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This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.

Figuring out your transferrable skills

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There is a lot of conversations online about the purpose and/or need for a college degree. The Colégas Group is squarely on the side of supporting a college education for everyone. That said, there is some push-back as to why we need college in the first place. As some of the rhetoric goes, there are plenty of vocational jobs that one can get without the need for a college degree. True, but consider that given the prevalence of hybrid and all-electric vehicles, even being a mechanic will require some knowledge of computers and related technology. This makes an associate’s degree a pretty reasonable expectation in today’s market and into the future.

So then, what sort of work can you get with a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate? The short answer is, it depends. I know…not helpful. But, it really does depend. It depends on you to make sense of your education…not your academic advisor, not your thesis advisor, not your dissertation chair…you. Your education provides you with many options, and the outcomes depend on you. Most degrees provide you with a foundation of transferrable skills. It is up to you to identify those skills, and then couple them with the important in-class and out-of-class lessons you gained from your college education. This is the stuff that you will end up outlining on a resume and cover letter.

I know what your next question will be…how do I do that? In my previous blog addressing Imposter Syndrome, I gave you a Knowledge Inventory Guide to outline your skills and abilities across a few “capital” categories: intellectual, social, creative, cultural and spiritual. Hopefully you’ve done that already. If you haven’t, I suggest you do so before you go any further.

Now that you’ve got your Knowledge Inventory outlined, let’s see if we can now map these into more skills-based categories. Some of these skills will sound very familiar as they have been your go-to skills to get through your academic program. Here are some ways to categorize your skills:

Management

  • Project management
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving
  • Organizing events
  • Task-focused
  • Managing a budget (personal or for a grant)

Supervising Skills

  • Overseeing undergrad or graduate research assistants
  • Mentoring and coaching peers
  • Team-work
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Skilled in working with diverse groups
  • Leading small or large groups

Entrepreneurship Skills

  • Creating or doing something new
  • Earning money
  • Being resilient
  • Winning awards and grants
  • Networking
  • International travel and experience

Communication Skills

  • Writing
  • Public speaking
  • Multi-lingual abilities
  • Teaching a course
  • Keeping the important people informed about your progress
  • Web, email, content creation and social media

Knowledge & Information Skills

  • Learning
  • Critical thinking
  • Research & analysis
  • Managing data & information
  • IT applications & programming languages
  • Subject matter expertise

(Transferrable Skills categories inspired by Chris Humphrey’s blog, jobsontoast.com.)

Now stand back and look at how your Knowledge Inventory maps on to the Skills categories. Now use the Skills categories to rate your proficiency from 1-5 (the familiar Likert Scale), with “1” being “No Knowledge/Experience” and “5” being “Expert”. Be honest with yourself because it will be you sitting in that interview chair accounting for what you said on your resume and cover letter. After you’ve done this, sit back and think about what you’ve determined to be your “5s”. Group those together. You’ve just identified your Transferrable Skills.

Transferrable skills are those abilities that transgress tasks. They may or may not reflect the core aspects of your college major. Your major was a starting point from which to begin your intellectual journal of self-discovery. Transferrable skills are abilities you can rely on to help you get a task done well. Whether that be coordinating a training session or planning the next company picnic; pitching a proposal to a client or taking the lead on a reorg in your unit. No matter what task you are asked to do, or you initiate, your transferrable skills give you the confidence to say, “I can do that!” Transferrable skills are the outcome of your intellectual self-discovery and form the foundation of your professional identity.

Now that you have your Knowledge Inventory and your “5s” Transferrable Skills in front of you, you have a road map with which to determine the types of jobs you can apply to. For example, maybe your skills are heavily weighted in Knowledge and Information Skills. Then look for an analyst position. If you are stronger in Communication Skills, look for work in training or public relations.

As I mentioned before, there is often no direct connection between your college education and the type of work you will end up doing as a career. Do the work now to assess your skills and abilities that can transfer into employment opportunities. Reflect on both the in-class and out-of-class lessons you learned in college. There were challenges and successes that you experienced during this time. Remember the investment you made in yourself to earn that degree. This is the essence of being a Collegiate Gigster, and you have a lot to offer any employer.

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This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.

Summer Refill: Reconnecting with Your Joy

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During these lean summer months, most adjuncts and Collegiate Gigsters are put in the position of having some extra time on their hands. However you see this, I personally take it as an opportunity to review my Summer Plan, read over my Be Kind Portfolio, and reconnect with what fills me back up, both intellectually and spiritually.

I love school. Always have and probably always will. If I every have to learn something new, I either take a class or structure my independent study to mirror a classroom experience. As a result, I love learning new things, and stretching myself intellectually to make new and unique connections between ideas. These intellectual exercises feed my mind and bring me joy. Yes, I’m a bit of a school geek, I know.

Feeling a little stressed out and in need of some motivation, I decided to do something that doesn’t cost me any money but will help me reconnect with my joy. This summer I decided to take an aspect of my dissertation and see if I can create a journal article out of it. I chose to work on a new concept that grew out of my findings and develop it more fully as an article. Using my Summer Plan template, I broke up the steps of read-review-revise and plotted them on my summer calendar. I also included time researching relevant academic journals to which I can submit my article.

I do this work about 30-45 minutes each day and it helps me reconnect with the one thing that brings me a lot of joy. The goal is to get my article accepted for review by one of the four journals that I have identified so far. If it doesn’t work out this time, I will take their feedback and keep improving on my work. This is how I live out my personal mantra: education is a process, not a commodity.

It is my hope that you take some time this summer to reconnect with what brings you joy and fills you back up. Whether that means committing to a daily walk, volunteering at a local shelter, trying a new recipe, or working on your TED talk. This will allow you to continue doing your best work in other areas. This reminds me of the instructions you receive on the plane just before take-off: in case of an emergency, please put your air mask on before you help someone else put theirs on. This is an important life lesson, especially given the human-centered work we all do. Fill yourself up, reconnect with your joy, so that you can help others.

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This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.

Self-Care for the Collegiate Gigster: Start a 'Be Kind Portfolio'

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In an earlier post, I spoke about the Imposter Syndrome and how it can impact the lives of Collegiate Gigsters. I included a Knowledge Inventory Guide that I created to help you detail concrete evidence of your skills and abilities in order to push back on the feelings of being an imposter. I would like to follow up that discussion by recommending a Be Kind Portfolio.

Part of the work of pushing back against feeling like an imposter is self-care. You have to care about yourself enough to know that once you do what you have to do, you must make time to do what you want to do. Looking to the academic world for inspiration, I came across an article discussing how academics can and must focus on their own self-care. In her article, Pam Whitfield talks about strategies she believes can help us all focus on self-care as it relates to mental well-being. She proposes you develop a Be Kind Portfolio:

"Start a Be Kind Portfolio. Fill it with material that demonstrates your love for the profession, care for students, and commitment to your community. You’ll fill it up fast. And looking back through your portfolio on the low days will fill you up and get you back on track."

Use this portfolio to remind yourself of the accomplishments you’ve made, especially on those days when things didn’t go as well as you would like them to. For example when a client is upset, or your presentation less than stellar, focus on your accomplishments instead of the negatives around you. I would also suggest you include in the Be Kind Portfolio, all the people you’ve come in contact with that have added to your overall sense of well-being. Human connections are vital for mental and physical health. According to research, human connections are the primary contributor to a long and healthy life. I’ve started a Be Kind Portfolio for myself. As a Collegiate Gigster and a professional educator, the portfolio serves as my guidebook for success and the successes I still aim to achieve.

People sometimes pull away from those they care about, and live “in their heads”. This is a a normal response. I too need a way to remind myself that I am doing better than my environment would suggest. I have people who care about me that want the best for me and it is important to keep this in mind as often as possible, but especially when things don't go exactly as planned. As part of your own self-care practice, I hope you begin a Be Kind Portfolio and let me know how it works out for you.

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This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.

Using your Summer to Plan for the Coming Year

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One of the ways we can use the summer months is to plan for the next 12 months. Whatever our gigster identity is, we should all have a plan in place that provides the following insights: Reflection, Strategy, Plan, and Execution.

Reflection
Look back on your previous year to see what went well, what went okay, and what didn’t work at all. Hopefully by now you are writing in a journal your plans, thoughts, and accomplishments so you have a good idea of how things are going for you. During the summer, reflect on your journals and develop a big-picture view of your year. This will help give you some idea of what your goals will be for the upcoming year.

Strategy
Now that you have a sense of your year, that next step is to identify some goals ou want to work on. What areas could be improved up? Who should you follow up with? Where else can you look for gigs? Essentially you are figuring out what you want to accomplish this upcoming year that is different from last year. Write down all of your answers to these and other questions you can think of. From this list, pick the top three things that you can reasonably set in motion with a plan.

Planning
For each thing you chose to address this summer, identify all the things you need to do to accomplish your goals. Set up a three-month schedule and identify all the things you want to accomplish for each goal on a weekly basis. Once you have your ideas laid out by week, take out your calendar and plug in those ideas where they best fit. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. You are not a failure if you do not get all the steps to your goal accomplished as scheduled. Sometimes you may be able to get something done sooner than expected…which is great! Remain flexible. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

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Execution
Now that you have your top three goals identified, and all the steps to get them accomplished plotted on your calendar, you must follow through. Make the phone calls, plan your next workshop content, follow up with a colleague, make that appointment. Don’t let life get in the way of you accomplishing your goals. As Collegiate Gigsters we often struggle with time management because there is no one to be accountable to but ourselves. We must remain professional and consistent in our personal dealings that are related to our gigs. This is part of our persona and the impression we leave behind with employers.

You will see on my sample schedule that one of the columns is labeled Personal. We must never forget to make time for ourselves. Whether that means reading a book, taking a walk, playing with our pet, spending more time with family, we must schedule in time for personal goals. Our connections with the people we care about and care about us is important to our emotional well-being. Fostering these relationships helps create a cheering section for us a Collegiate Gigsters.

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This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.

Gigster Summers, Part 2: More resources for income during the slower summer months

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In an earlier edition of the Gigster 'Zine, I spoke about the difficulties of managing as a Gigster during the summer because companies and organizations tend to end their contracts during this time. We included some ideas on earning extra income in the summer, which you can review here.

The feedback was overwhelming but you also sent us more suggestions that we thought would be useful for everyone. Yes, there are many Gigs available during this time, but we want to focus on those that make effective use of your Collegiate Gigster skills.

So here is Part 2 of our list of suggestions for earning a little extra income this Summer:

Academic Tutoring
Several of you do tutoring Gigs during the Summer. Services like Wyznat Tutoring Services help you connect with those needing academic assistance and training.

Test Websites
One of our readers mentioned that finding work for the differently-abled is especially difficult. Here is something you can do from home and does not require a lot of physical activity: testing websites for quality at UserTesting.

Virtual Assistant
Many professionals need help managing their calendars, contacts and customers. If you are organized, becoming a VA may be just for you. If this is of interest, check out Assistant Match.

Teach English Online
Gigsters have to be good in speaking, reading and writing in English. Why not teach children around the world to do so as well? One site that makes this easy is VIPkid.

Be a Local Tour Guide
How well do you know your own city? Why not enlighten others from abroad with your knowledge? One site that makes this very easy is Vayable.

Transcription Services
Are you a fast typist? Good with language? How about transcribing audio & video for large companies? There are many options online, but one company that has an easy interface for improving the skills of transcribers is Go Transcript.

Teach Online
Everyone knows Udemy as a popular place to get trained online. Did you also know that it is also a great place to teach and earn extra income doing so? As a Collegiate Gigsters you have unique skills already, so rising to the top shouldn't be too difficult.

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Now we would be remiss if we didn't mention the three biggest online temp sites, especially for programmers:

In a way, they are our competition, we know. They also happen to be open for business, while we are almost there. We are confident enough in our own service that when we are up & running, we believe you will agree that we offer Gigs that cater to your higher-level skills and leave more in your pockets.

So go ahead, try them out, we're not worried.

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This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.