Category Archives: Financial Independence

The Gig Economy: My Presentation and Notes from the CDC @ BCCDA 2017 Conference

My father had one job in his lifetime, I will have six jobs in my lifetime, and my children will have six jobs at the same time.” ~ Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar

For many, the quote above makes no sense at all; some think it doesn’t apply to them as they have traditional, stable jobs and careers…for others, that is already an everyday reality. For me, coming from places where collapse and change were so common that people made jokes and songs with them (and where you had to be creative about how you got your basic needs met), and with a deep understanding gained through permaculture life-design and observing (sometimes also coaching) unusual people live diverse lives, this concept is not only not new: it is seen as an opportunity, a waking call to re-think what we are, how we live and why we work.

Here, for those of you attending my presentation at the CDC Conference organized by BCCDA yesterday (March 27) and today (March 28), and for my usual readers, I post as promised my PPT and notes. You are free to connect with me for further exploration of these topics, having a tea together and talking about how to change the world, creating a social business together or just brainstorming ideas of what’s needed and what’s possible.

In the upcoming weeks and months, I will be sharing more details about my integrated vision of how to make this work for us and the clients we serve. A version of my posts will appear as articles at both the Canadian Immigrant Magazine (one of my “gigs”) and the Canadian-Filipino Magazine (again) in case you want a printed or more “polished” version.

I want to credit Diane Mulcahy, the author of “The Gig Economy” with whom I’m in contact via email, for her amazing and innovating book which served as a main source of inspiration for this presentation; I have taken the liberty of adding my own ideas (mostly coming from my permaculture systems thinking) to her “10 rules” of how to survive (and thrive) in this emerging economy. I also want to acknowledge Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, university professors and authors of “Designing your Life” as I took some of their ideas and spiced them up with my own knowledge and experience as a certified career councellor and life coach. You can find information about how to get their books and materials at the end of this post.

Finally, as a permaculturist and social justice activist myself, I will add some ideas that go beyond career counselling: I see the Gig Economy as both a result of our times (and a sign of deepening inequality, loss of values and the emergence of potential abuse and exploitation of those less privileged ) and as an extraordinary opportunity. If we leave it be, we will see more and more of the former (abuse and exploitation and the celebration of unhealthy, unethical and selfish as a “model” to follow)…but if we “design” the change and intervene in the right places, we may end up with a re-distribution of work, a re-evaluation of why we are here and what our priority are and a focus on holistic and global health and equality, ethics and co-operation instead…

Without more preambles, here is my presentation, enjoy!

“Look to this picture above for a minute…what do you see? What’s the first word or thought that comes to you?

Some will see this as a sunset: the day is over and darkness is approaching…others will see it as a sunrise: the sun is raising after a long dark night.

What about the tree and its branches? What season is that? Again, some will see this as the start of the fall: the tree branches look bare, as if all the leaves have fallen…others, will see that it may actually be spring, and the bare branches are now beginning to cover themselves with small buds…

I chose this picture to represent my views on the emerging gig economy because it can be seen as both: the start of a dark period for workers or the rebirth of independence and the opportunity to re-think career, work and even life design!

In the next hour and a half, we will explore the options and you will decide whether this is an end, a beginning or both and what is our role as career practitioners, program developers and managers, funders and social advocates.”

You can download the entire PPT with my notes here: Navigating the Gig Economy PPT with Notes by Silvia Di Blasio

The Books:

The Gig Economy: http://www.dianemulcahy.com/

Designing Your Life: (for book and materials you can download): http://designingyour.life/

Note: this presentation was recorded. If the video is good, I will be publishing it here too for those interested.

More than ever, we at the end of the last century were finding ourselves with big houses and broken homes, high incomes and low morale…we were excelling at making a living but too often failing at making a life. We celebrated our prosperity but yearned for purpose. We cherished our freedoms but longed for connection. In an age of plenty, we were feeling spiritual hunger.” ~ David Myers

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Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
~ Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

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“ In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “We have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.

When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger – while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for days of need.”

 

I invest most of my off-work time in teaching workshops on things like emergency preparedness, first aid, food preservation and similar “survival” skills, including gardening and permaculture.

I enjoy doing it, but most people have no idea of the amount of preparation, resources, energy and time I have to invest before (and sometimes after too) apart of the obvious time invested in actually presenting the workshops: I have to research, buy, write hand-outs, make copies, create samples, clean and organize stuff…then I have to figure out logistics, as I don’t drive nor own a car and many of my workshops are in faraway places. For some of them, I have to travel in buses, trains and ferries for almost an entire day only to get there and another one to come back. Most of my workshops are free of charge or inexpensive compared to taking the same at other institutions.

In the last few months, I have realized how much energy all this has taken out of me and how tired I am.

I have also tried to share what I know with family and friends, with no much luck in terms of awareness: people know me as “that sweet lady doomer”; they tolerate me, but not necessarily engage in profound and (as I see them) necessary conversations about what’s going on, how to stop or even reverse it and, if all of it fails, how to prepare for the worst case scenarios.

For me, being prepared goes well beyond having a “survivor’s pantry” full of food, water, backups for energy/shelter/health/transportation and tools (as I already have)…it also means (and I would say these are the most important things someone can do) to be free of debt (I’m not), physically, spiritually and emotionally healthy (I’m working on it), connected with like-minded people who can act as “backup” for emotional and spiritual inspiration and strength and learning/practicing and sharing the skills we need to live in a more sustainable world…and to use in case our world becomes suddenly upside-down due to a collapse (financial, socio-political, environmental, etc…)

That’s why this excellent article from Peak Prosperity came just in time: Grasshopper Nation: Planning For Those Who Aren’t Prepared

It asks very important questions:

  • Of the people in your life, which ones will you put aside reserve resources for?
  • How much are you willing to put aside for them?
  • And, what are your limits? At what point will you say “no”?

 

I would liberally translate them into: what people in your life would you make the effort to approach and trying to engage? how much of your time/energy/resources are you willing to invest? and what are your limits, when is it time to start saying “no” without regrets?

As Adam Taggart says, you have to put your oxygen mask first. Being in disaster response and emergency preparedness for so many years, I know how important this is…but I don’t apply to myself!

The next are excellent steps for those of you like me (an ant mentality as opposed to the grasshoppers, which are the majority), thanks to Adam for the great article! The comments are mine, if you want to read the original post (highly recommended), check it here.

  • Put your oxygen mask on first. I’m a bit less into “financial resilience” so my line is more into building internal resilience first (physical, emotional, spiritual) so you are strong enough to support others when they come to the full understanding of our predicaments. It also means making sure your efforts to help others (note to myself here!) don’t diminish your own resources and make you financially or energy-wise vulnerable…
  • Serve as a model. I would add: without judgement towards yourself and others…do what you can with what you have, wherever you are and with what you already are. Changing ourselves takes time and in many cases we have monsters, ghosts and many other very real barriers that don’t allow us to be the model we wish to be.
  • Keep your reserve assets confidential. I partially agree with this one. It depends on what type of “assets” we are talking about. Those who hide things are more likely to become a target of desperate grasshoppers. If we talk about inner resilience and skills, I would say share as much as you can as long as sharing doesn’t diminish your own energy or abilities to learn more skills and become healthier!
  • Build awareness among friends/family of the risks in play. Good luck with this one! I’m still learning how to deliver the news in ways that create change. I’ve found out that many are not interested or are so scared that don’t want to learn…as long as this building of awareness does not diminish your own ability to respond, go ahead…with compassion, but also with bold honesty
  • Get folks engaged in the right actions for the wrong reasons. Really liked this one, it’s fun…but does it work? I’ve been engaged in many of these and have a sense of wasting my time as I’m hungry for reality and sharing with like-minded people. I may need to work more on this one…
  • Define your line. Curious, will read and report: http://www.peakprosperity.com/step-5-emotional-capital
  • Empower the latecomers. Fully engaged on this!

 

A note to all the ants out there: we tend to look into the future; we are strategic thinkers and planners and like to be prepared. We also like to research and discuss topics that may seem dry to others but are super exciting for us. But what most defines us is the sense of responsibility: towards us, our loved ones and our communities. We work hard creating awareness, learning and sharing skills, building resilience and supporting others…our problem? We barely take care of ourselves!

The strength of the ants, however, is that when we take responsibility, we also take control of those things we still can control.

 

A note to the grasshoppers out there: you tend to live in the “now” and be optimistic. You trust that things will work out, someone or something will intervene and make all good again. You think you don’t have control or even responsibility and you are partially right: when you give away your responsibility to others (the government, the corporations, the activists, your insurance company, the Red Cross, your bank, your community supermarket, etc.), you lose control of things that are important not only for your wellbeing but also to your survival: air, water, food, shelter, transportation, etc.

Your weakness is that when the time comes, you won’t be prepared. You have given up all your power to others and you may burden your partner, your family and friends, your community. But you still have time to change. Nobody is born an ant or a grasshopper. We are all conscious beings capable of inner and outer resilience.

 

And now, back out there…24 degrees Celcius and going up to max of 30 later today! So much to do at home and the garden! Enough of my grasshopper side!

It Takes a Village to Raise Employment

My clients know me: I listen to all of them and work my best to help them. All of them have moved from their countries to Canada pursuing a dream: to have a better life for themselves but most of all, for their children. And one of their priorities to make this happen is to find a job: stable, full-time, well-paid and that utilizes their pre-landing skills and experience…

But this is not the case: most clients end up with what is known as “survival jobs”: temporary, part-time or shift-jobs where they are not only underpaid and with no benefits, but also fail to use my client’s experience and skills.

They also know what I stand for: during my workshops, I make my “bias” very clear: I think the oil, gas and carbon industries need to invest in a quick shift into renewables (which probably will generate more direct and indirect jobs, as training and certifications will be needed), and I also think that governments at all levels need to be seriously planning and implementing EDAPs: Energy descent Action Plans.

The times we are facing are difficult, to say the least, and everybody, including “fossil fuel” companies know this (read this report from Shell to get an idea).

Individuals should also be thinking in reducing their consumption and debt in general, but more when it is related to energy and raw materials: every thing we buy or use has been manufactured thanks to the exploitation of raw materials and/or the use of energy coming from sources that are not only not renewable, they are damaging the environment in such a way that (not stopping their use on time) will cause the mass extinction of many species and the collapse of our civilization.

That is why reports such as this reassure what I already know: A Closer, Deflating Look at BC’s Natural Gas Jobs Claim…I have been telling my clients that the claim of the 100,000 jobs from LNG or the bigger claim on 1,000,000 new jobs is just political, misleading, cheap propaganda.

While I continuously hear from clients that employers are increasingly offering them to “volunteer” for weeks or even months (taking advantage of their despair and the fact that they don’t have Canadian experience and references), or paying them under the table, paying $11 for engineering jobs, asking them to work extra time without any benefit, changing or increasing their shifts or caseload without consultation or pay, etc. I have only common sense advice to offer:

  • When reading or watching news, use critical thinking: read between the lines, read from alternative sources 9not only mainstream news media), talk to people in the industry, follow real trends, connect the dots. Do not accept digested “news”
  • Do not accept “volunteering” for for-profit businesses and companies. If you do want to volunteer, make sure you understand and agree with the guidelines, time-frame and conditions. You should also receive something in exchange: training, references, the opportunity to network, the opportunity to be considered first if an opening for paid jobs appear, etc
  • Be intentional: Volunteer to upgrade your skills, increase your network and learn about the Canadian labour market. And allow for time off to continue your training and job search
  • Be intentional and proactive in your job search: if you only apply occasionally and online, you may not get enough interviews. Attend industry-related events, conferences and presentations. Take related and strategically chosen training for your profession (don’t know what? Ask me!)
  • Build your references in Canada: there is no magic bullet to accomplish this: meet your neighbours, talk to people, volunteer, work in a part-time job, take related training, all this builds relationships
  • Work on your resume and cover letter: make them stand out, highlight what you have special
  • Explore the labour market by meeting with people already working in the industry: this will tell you where the market may be heading and whether is safer for you to explore career changes…

 

Other suggestions, not directly related to job search and career planning but that make you and your family more resilient in the times to come:

  • Do not commit to big expenses until you have more cash available. No job is “safe” these days: do not buy big items such as houses, cars, furniture, etc
  • Pay any debt you have
  • Do not make long term investments: keep some cash readily available for rainy days
  • Simplify your life as much as you can
  • Start growing your own food. If you don’t have a patio, deck or balcony, join a community garden. If none in your area; meet with friends and approach the Food Action Coalition, we can help you start one!
  • If you don’t already know, learn to ride a bike. Buying a bike for each member of your family is the best investment you can make these days.
  • Research about practices that make your life more enjoyable, resilient and self-reliant, such as Permaculture (I also offer short introductions to Permaculture for groups or minimum 12 people and organizations. Contact me here)
  • Take an Emergency Preparedness workshop (organize one and contact me, I am a specialist in this! Check out my blog or contact me for more details)
  • Review your priorities in life and what your spiritual side is asking you and follow your heart. Life is not an accumulation of stuff, nor a 7/24 work towards competing goals. Life is for living.

Most immigrants are very resilient and knowledgeable about how to “do without” because we all come from places where things were not so good as they are here…keep those skills and transfer them to your children: they will need them

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