Episode #136 – Marc Miller interviews Diane Mulcahy about the opportunity mindset.
Diane Mulcahy is the author of the bestselling book, The Gig Economy: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want. Diane created the first course on the Gig Economy, an MBA class she teaches at Babson College that was named by Forbes as one of the Top 10 most innovative business school classes in the country. Daine consults to companies about the gig economy, is a Forbes contributor, and speaks globally about the future of work. You can learn more about Diane’s work at DianeMulcahycom.
[1:37] Marc welcomes you to Episode 136 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Career Pivot is the sponsor of this podcast; CareerPivot.com is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you, free of charge.
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[3:54] This week, Marc is interviewing Diane Mulcahy. Marc shares her bio.
to the Repurpose Your Career Podcast.
Now on to the podcast…
[4:43] Marc welcomes Diane to the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Marc notes that most listeners are over 50, from the corporate world, with an employee mindset. One of the chapters in Diane’s book tells of an opportunity mindset.
[5:24] How you work affects how you think about things. The employee mindset is relatively passive and conformative. The mentality is to outsource your professional development and financial stability to an employer, taking whatever benefits somebody gives you; you are reactive.
[6:16] When you work independently, in order to be successful, you really have to change to an opportunity mindset or an entrepreneurial mindset; you are proactive. It takes ownership and going out and getting what you want. You have to think about what you want to get out of your professional life, take the reins, and drive toward your goals.
[7:25] The opportunity mindset is about choosing the type of work you want to do, the level at which you want to operate, the rates you want to charge, and your revenue targets, then going out and getting them.
[7:46] Marc says even employees should drop the employee mindset. It doesn’t make sense today. Employers expect employees to take care of their own training and professional development.
[8:19] Diane agrees that even if you are an employee, you can really benefit from thinking about your mindset, and how you approach your work life and your professional life. You can bring an opportunity mindset to your work. If you don’t find the benefits you want at your existing company, you can find a new opportunity at a different company.
[9:17] Diane suggests thinking about where you fit on the spectrum between employee mindset and opportunity mindset. Whichever way you are leaning, how does it affect your opportunities and how your career is going? How might you want to move along that continuum in the future?
[9:40] Marc had an employee mindset for a long time, and it took something to really shake him up to get him to change. Several people in Marc’s online community now have portfolios of gigs; they would not have thought of that until Marc presented the idea to them that they didn’t have to have a single job. They are all over 60.
[10:26] Diane explains the pathway to a portfolio gig. First, take the pressure off. Not every gig has to pay. Gigs that don’t pay can be valuable, too. They are easier to get. Volunteer gigs provide the opportunity to expand your network and develop new skills by doing. When you have finished that term, you have an actual portfolio to talk about.
[12:44] It can be hard to figure out what you want to do if you have always had a corporate career. Gigs can be a nice, low-risk, low-commitment way to try things that you’re curious about or interested in and see if they fit. Try an industry new to you. Diane uses the example of film. Volunteer at a film festival. Get involved.
[14:00] For gigs that pay, consider whether you can hang up your own shingle and deploy your skills to a new client base. Ask yourself if there is a way to stay involved with past clients or colleagues from the corporate world, for projects, referrals, or consulting gigs.
[15:32] There are now online platforms for just about every industry there is. Go online, bid on some projects, and create a portfolio of gigs. Search for platforms in the industry and the sector where you’ve worked.
[16:13] Marc recalls the art walk he visited last summer in Mexico. There were 90 artists and most of them were ‘gringos’ over 60. Most of them had not started creating art before moving to Mexico. They almost invariably started learning how to do their paintings by watching YouTube videos.
[16:49] Diane notes resources for taking classes on edX.org, mooc.org, coursera.org, LinkedIn Learning, and more. For anything you want to learn, you can find an online class. Some are free, some are low-cost; they are all on-demand from the convenience of wherever you are. It’s an amazing opportunity to develop your knowledge and skills.
[17:29] Marc tells everybody to listen to podcasts. “There’s a podcast for everything.”
[17:51] To find gigs, first look toward your former employers and colleagues. You are a low-risk, known quantity to them with internal knowledge. Secondly, reach out to the broader network of people you have met over the years in work-related contexts or community situations. Ask for ideas for projects or consulting opportunities.
[18:59] Thirdly, there are platforms popping up for every industry, every sector, and every skill set. Some fit small niches. Diane names a few: Upwork for a wide range of projects, Catalant matching consultants with companies, axiom for attorneys, toptal for software coders, and 99designs for graphic designers and marketers.
[19:47] Look for a platform that targets our sector, industry and skill experience.
[20:00] Diane created and teaches a class on the gig economy in the MBA program at Babson College in Boston. Diane gives her students an assignment to brainstorm a list of 10 potential side gigs that they could do to make money. Almost anyone can come up with a list of three to five. You have to stretch think of 10 gigs. Then they discuss them.
[21:10] Talking about this list with someone else may spark new ideas based on what they thought of or they might suggest a gig for you that you hadn’t imagined. Other people see us differently than we see ourselves. They may have a different perspective on our talents that we take for granted.
[21:52] This is a really good exercise if you’re in transition, or thinking about transitioning. Spend some time in a creative mindset to come up with new ideas. See where that leads.
[22:08] Marc talks about MSU (Making Stuff Up) disorder. Marc says it’s a very dark place when you’re inside your own head and you don’t know what you don’t know. Talking to other people can give you new ideas. So much has changed in employment over the last five years. Marc has a friend starting a Fulfillment by Amazon business.
[23:44] Technology has really augmented and expanded the opportunities that are available. A lot of people ‘snowbird’ someplace else in the winter. That used to make it challenging to work. Now if you create something online where you can work remotely, you can really take your work wherever you go.
[24:33] Diane interviewed people for her book who had jobs as coaches, design consultants, and even a psychologist, all of whom were operating their business online. They interact with their clients through Skype, Zoom, or Webex. It’s very freeing to be able to do that.
[25:05] Daine’s book has a chapter on facing fears by reducing risks. She directed the chapter more at people who are considering making the transition from a job to a portfolio career. If you have already transitioned, you have overcome that fear. But all of us have fears about the future.
[25:50] Diane recommends taking your fear and “wrestle it to the ground.” Put a name to it. What is the fear? Take that feeling of fear and articulate it for what it is. “I’m worried that I’m going to run out of money,” for example. Then lay out the risks around that and think of specific acts you can take to mitigate the risks.
[27:14] One risk is that you’ll outlive your money. So, look at an investment. Another risk might be a big health problem. So, look at Long Term Care insurance. Or maybe change your living situation to a population center, with mass transit, deliveries, and health services close at hand.
[28:15] Another risk might be the cost of living. Think about ways to earn additional income to supplement your retirement savings.
[28:43] Diane recommends breaking down your big fears into specific actionable risks. Fears become a lot less scary when you break them down on paper. Then you can talk about them with other people who have already been retired for five or more years. Ask them how they dealt with these fears. Ask what else you should be thinking about.
[29:51] Do the work yourself, to understand what your own fears and risks are. Then find ways to check and validate those fears and also create opportunities for action by discussing them with other people. It is calming and allows you to take control of your fears and manage them. This is an exercise that Diane’s MBA students say is powerful.
[30:37] Marc is a fan of Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.com. Darren did a podcast episode where he asked, “Why don’t you figure out what’s the really worst thing that can happen if you do this?” Usually, you’ll find that the worst thing is not so bad. But if it is really bad, then you know you’ll need to do something about it.
[31:06] Diane says that most people do jump to the worst-case scenario when they’re considering a specific action. It is helpful to assign probabilities to the likelihood of the fears coming to pass. Research and take action on reasonably likely scenarios to make sure they don’t happen. Triage the risks.
[32:29] Time management as a gig worker is a topic that people leaving a traditional job don’t often think about. It is a real issue.
[32:55] Diane talks about hiring a research assistant part-time to help while she was writing her book. The assistant came in at 9:00 and left at 6:00 because that was how she had always worked in her recent corporate job. It hadn’t occurred to her that she could work a different schedule.
[33:58] As you transition to working for yourself, think about time differently. Give yourself time to experiment with the structure of your day to see what works. In a full-time job, other people structure your time for you. You may never have learned the skill to structure your own time. Figure out when you do deep, concentration work best.
[35:02] Figure out when you are the most energetic and able to interact with the outside world. When is the best time for you to do meetings and phone calls, as opposed to deep work? What breaks should you take during the day? Do you need to go to the gym and reboot for the rest of the day?
[35:44] You also need to structure your weeks. Diane tries not to schedule anything after 3:00 on Fridays. She takes a couple of hours to reflect on the week, create a priority list for the next week, and go to a yoga class or do something that allows her to mentally wind down and transition to the weekend.
[36:30] Experiment and find your own habits that work for your productivity. Reflect on what it was like to go from a really structured full-time job to having a lot of time and learning how to structure it. It’s a challenge with a learning curve. It requires some compassion and kindness to yourself with a sense of learning and experimentation.
[37:09] Marc largely does not work on Fridays. Friday morning, he blocks off for his hiking club. He doesn’t work on Saturdays, but he does work on Sunday afternoons. This is a schedule that works for him. He uses a virtual assistant. She has deadlines, which helps Marc.
[37:37] Diane agrees you don’t have to be the hero and do everything yourself. A virtual assistant is a big help. It is good to build a team around you to keep you accountable and on track. Diane works with someone to do her monthly newsletter and keep her social media on track. Working with other people keeps Diane on time with deliverables.
[38:29] As you leave your full-time job, consider whether you need that kind of outside accountability to get things done. That works really well for Diane, who is very deadline-oriented. Your team can be very part-time and still help you accomplish the goals that you want.
[38:59] Marc is very horizontally-skilled. He knows how to do a lot of stuff. It took him so time to realize he didn’t need to do all of it. He had to be willing to find people to do things he either didn’t like to do or wasn’t very good at doing.
[39:27] Diane emphasizes the point and ties it to building a portfolio of gigs. When you are faced with finding your own work to do, how do you start? You can learn all the new media skills yourself, or you can work with someone who is an expert in them. Focus on what you like to do and what you are good at and interested in; outsource the rest.
[41:09] Some people run into problems in keeping momentum when they work independently. You have to sustain the motivation and the momentum yourself. If you are working with other people, you have projects underway, you have a plan outlined, you have interim deliverables, with deadlines. It’s a great way to maintain momentum.
[42:08] Baby Boomers may not be used to building a team and hiring people to do things. Diane asks her students why shouldn’t they hire someone to free up their time to do the things that they want to do and that they’re good at doing? What is the highest and best use of your time?
[42:50] By being a client, you are actually helping somebody else to build up their independent business and validating their skills and expertise and learning from them. Maybe you can refer them to other people you know.
[43:26] You can reach Diane at DianeMulcahy.com and sign up for her monthly newsletter there, and for her question of the month to reflect on as you transition to working independently. Diane’s book is available on her website or on Amazon.
[44:13] Marc thanks Diane for being on the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[44:23] Marc hopes this episode gave you some things to think about.
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[45:53] Please come back next week, when Marc will interview Mark Silverman of Amava.com
[45:59] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[46:04] You will find the show notes for this episode at CareerPivot.com/episode-136.
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