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12. Q&A with Gail Kastning on Purposeful Work, Portfolio Careers, and Understanding the Employer's Needs

· Career Planning Show
Gail Kastning interview on The Career Planning Show

Gail Kastning is a Certified Career Strategist and the owner of Purposeful Careers and DIY Career School ™. She equips job seekers and Career Coaches with knowledge of portfolio careers, independent careers and SMART side hustle strategy helping people build an income streaming mindset. Based in Calgary, Alberta, Gail holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Regina and the Certified Career Strategist certification from the Career Professionals of Canada.
Learn more about Gail at and connect with her on LinkedIn.

If you have a career planning question you'd like us to answer on The Career Planning Show, let us know via or at @AlexRascanu.

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Transcript of the Interview:

Alex Rascanu: Welcome to The Career Planning Show. Our guest today is Gail Kastning. How are you, Gail?

Gail Kastning: I'm great. Thanks.

Alex Rascanu: Wonderful. It's great to have you with us. Can you share your career journey so far?

Gail Kastning: I'm a portfolio careerist and I've been a portfolio careerist for over 20 years. What that means is I prefer to stream income instead of having one full-time steady job, even though that can be part of my portfolio of income streams.

Alex Rascanu: Yes.

Gail Kastning: I've actually changed careers four times. I started out in the restaurant industry actually. And then from the restaurant industry as a server, I became a legal office administrator and I worked in that capacity for a very short period of time. And then I switched over to teaching and I was actually a teacher for about 15 years. And then from teaching, I started sliding into career development and workplace training. Now I'm fully in career development, a little bit of workplace training, but predominantly I run a company that is a career development focused service.

Alex Rascanu: Would you mind sharing the transition path that you took when you were going from being a teacher to specializing in career development? Did you happen to have opportunities within the school environment to explore that and use those learning opportunities as a way to transition into a more full-time role in career development? Or how did that process go for you?

Gail Kastning: Yeah. The idea of career development came when I was teaching in Japan. I was working in Japan as a English as a second language teacher for five years. And the spark came from watching how Japanese people approach their work and how they actually trained for jobs. So I was fascinated by their education system and their job preparation and how it was very uniquely different from our Canadian version of, you know, preparing for work. So that's what sparked it. And I started doing research when I was in Japan about actually getting a master's degree in career development, but it didn't exist at that time. When I came back to Canada, I got a job in international education and helping students that were coming to Canada to study in high school and junior high. I was designing programming and, part of that programming, I was asked to be their career advisor. So I was the career advisor of international students, and then became a career advisor to Canadian grade 12 students, and then from there it just sort of morphed. And I realized that I really liked it.

Alex Rascanu: That's wonderful. I had a co-op placement in Nagoya, Japan. I found that experience fascinating, and I carry it with me wherever I go. Whenever you go into a new environment, you observe and learn and realize that the way they're doing things is different, but it works. So you just sit down and watch and listen and not have a strong opinion just because it's different from how you think it should be done. And you realize why it work so well within that environment. Right? Observe and listen, and just learn from other people who come from different experiences.

Gail Kastning: Exactly.

Alex Rascanu: Would you mind speaking about what it means to have a purposeful career?

Gail Kastning: Right. If purposeful work sounded better than purposeful careers, I would probably have gone with purposeful work because I want to get up every morning and I want to have a sense of purpose in whatever work I'm doing, whether that's an unpaid job or it's a paid job, whether it's multiple different income streams that kind of pull that sense of purpose together. So a purposeful career for me does mean that I have to bring a sense of purpose to the work that I'm doing. So I look at it as me bringing that sense of purpose into whatever work I'm choosing to do.

Alex Rascanu: Yeah. And adding as much value as possible and take responsibility for the work that I have before me. Right?

Gail Kastning: Exactly. Yes.

Alex Rascanu: Hmm. Let's say Mary is in her forties or fifties. She was working in the oil industry in Alberta and due to the downturn layoffs occur and she decides to come back to her family who's based in Calgary. Now she's trying to figure out her next step.

Gail Kastning: Yeah. So that's actually an interesting case study because I do have some examples that are kind of similar to that. So if it's a new location, I think that that's something to that you have to definitely consider because you might not have the network. Right? So then the focus might be to try to build a network. So if your idea is, you know, while I just need to pay the bills right now, and I've got a certain kind of skill set that I could utilize to, you know, get a survival income stream going then you would go that direction while simultaneously looking for opportunities, you know, in her field of maybe, you know, taking on a temporary part-time contract or a temporary full-time contract in your field so that you can start to build that network. And I've had clients that have that have created that in the meantime strategy, because it sounds like that's what you're talking about, because there's two strategies that I typically use and that's an in the meantime strategy for a portfolio career - so it's a short term strategy and we try to optimize the income streams for different purposes. Right. And then, and then there's long-term income streaming strategy and you have to be a more seasoned income streamer to be able to take on that type of an income streaming concept. Because there's mistakes that you can make with income streaming that can have long-term impact on your overall income in a year or throughout your lifetime. So you have to really, you have to start to know what you're doing and getting mentored at some point. But in a short-term fashion, you could be looking at having your foot in the door of your industry and just getting your foot in the door somehow with contract work or part-time job , and then have your foot in another job where you can potentially stream some income to pay your bills. So there could be, there could be multiple strategy possibilities.

Alex Rascanu: That's great. If we take a look at the career coaching resources that you provide , there are resources that you have developed and are showcasing that relate to individuals who are trying to progress in their careers. But if we're thinking about career coaches themselves - someone who maybe is working as a job developer with an employment service provider or somebody who's working as a, the manager of the career services program at a university - how can such individuals add additional revenue outside regular business hours?

Gail Kastning: Right. So, what I notice interviewing portfolio careerists is how they've typically started is with a side hustle. So that's usually the first income stream that people kind of branch off with and they start to monetize it somehow. So an example would be, I had an engineer, not that long ago actually, who had lost his job in the recession in Alberta. The world of work is changing. Right? We all know that. And so a lot of the jobs that he was seeing were contract jobs rather than full-time permanent positions. He had seen me do a talking engagement on portfolio careers and he reached out to me, came to me for coaching and said, you know, my industry is changing and I think I need to prepare for this. And in the middle of job search, his former boss called him back and said, would you come back as an independent worker? Would you work for us on contract? So that's one income stream, right? And so we prepped for him becoming a contractor. And then I said to him, you know, being a contractor, you're going to have these lowess in between potentially where you might want to come up with some filler ideas in terms of income streams. So the one thing that we really looked at was renting -providing different opportunities for rent. And his idea was to be able to rent space for people in the recession who wanted to create an independent contracting life but didn't want to work from home and didn't want to go to a coworking space. So he was looking at creating rental income in his home or his kind of like his colleagues to be able to come to his house and rent out his basement because he had some unused space. And so it's always fascinating to me what people are thinking in the back of their heads in terms of what they could monetize. I can't come up with ideas for people necessarily, although we do brainstorming sessions around some potential ideas, but the reality is that people are actually pretty good sometimes at coming up with their own ideas. But then it's that monetizing it. Another quick example would be when our family actually created a dog sitting business a little while ago. It was my daughter's idea. She wanted to babysit rabbits, and get paid for rabbits and snakes. So we kind of thought, well, rabbits and snakes in the vicinity of the house probably are not a good combination. But then I was out in the dog park one day and somebody said to me, well, why don't you guys babysit dogs? You're already going to the dog park. I thought, yeah. And I'm already vacuuming up dog hair in my house. Well, why don't we just monetize this and get paid for it? That's what we did. And so we just put a call out into the dog park and all of the dog walkers and the dog sitters then had overflow said "great, now we can refer people to you." And suddenly, boom, we had a dog sitting business. My daughter had a dog sitting business on her hands. And it grew. And so I think that sometimes what you are naturally already doing is a good place to start. And figure out does the world need it? Because if the world needs it, sometimes you can monetize it. And, in some cases, some of the ideas that we have might not be an idea that you want to monetize, because then it might start feeling like work as well. And some people want to just work without getting paid, create something without getting paid, or it's not going to be scalable. So it depends on whether or not you want to scale an income stream down the road, or whether you want to cap it at a certain energy level because you can't find more energy to be able to turn it into something else or to grow it. And so it really depends on people's reasons for why they want the income stream to start out. Do they have a short-term plan for it or a long-term plan? Is it a scalable idea? And can it be monetized? Those are typically the questions that we kind of run through.

Alex Rascanu: That's great. Why don't we shift gears and we look at another scenario. Let's imagine that someone comes to you and says, look, I've been working in the construction industry for the last 15 years, I was a part of a union and I got injured on the job recently. And the employer that I was working with is fighting the workplace insurance board with regards to any payments that they should be providing in order for me to be able to sustain myself and my family now that I'm not working. Is there a train of thought that you might want to share with regards to how somebody who's in such a difficult situation?

Gail Kastning: Right. I have worked with clients in that situation. So, the number one thing that we have to really think about as career practitioners is where are the needs?

Alex Rascanu: Yes.

Gail Kastning: Because the bottom line is that the world of work is shifting right now. And the needs of the world of work are shifting and the needs of employers are shifting. It's about us and our needs, but it's also about the alignment to the world of work, because if we're injured and we can't do what we used to do before and there was like a bonafide need for what we did before and now we can't do what we used to do we have to figure out where is that alignment? Because when the rubber meets the road, our job is to help job seekers align to the needs of the world of work. And that's where you get that connection. And if there is no connection, it means that there's disconnection. And then we have to diagnose where there's a disconnect. And the disconnect is in the injury. If there's still an existing need here, but this worker cannot meet that need now because of the injury, then are there other skills and are there other ways for that worker to be able to meet the needs of the organization in a different way? That would be my first starting point. And if the answer to that question is no, then we have to find another need and align that person to another need somewhere else. It sounds simplistic to look at it like that, but we're trying to create that connection between the needs of a business and what a worker can do. Sometimes the needs can be fulfilled in again, multiple income streams.

Alex Rascanu: That's my next train of thought in that the person may not be able to go back necessarily to that particular employer because probably their union is in court with with the employer, with regards to this particular file. But the individual could potentially try to continue to stay within the industry in maybe a different type of role after talking with their union and perhaps take a desk job with another construction company. And maybe on the side, identify other opportunities in order to add additional revenues and potentially try to get back to the level of income that they used to have in their previous job. There's a reason why I'm asking this question -it's because I have a family member went through a similar experience. Another thought that we might explore is career planning- related tools and resources that come to mind that you refer to time and again.

Gail Kastning: I'm constantly referring people to economists. In this pandemic we're seeing shifts. In order to create that alignment, our clients and us have to be very aware of the changes that are occurring in the world of work, where opportunity potentially will be and then we also have to understand who are the organizations who are trying to create that connection. Because if some clients need bridging programs, then we're going to have to be very aware of the bridging programs that are going to be made available in the future or existing bridging programs that are actually making those connections between the needs of employers and the folks who are struggling . It really depends on the client, but again, it comes down to that alignment between the needs of the client and what the client can do and what the client has to offer, and then the needs in the changing world of work and what businesses are experiencing. And if we don't understand businesses right now and what they're going through, it's going to be really hard to make that connection. The number one thing that I tell my clients is that I really want them to do not just labor market information, because that's going to be about six months old.

Alex Rascanu: Or even older than that. Some of the data that we're still using is from five to 10 years ago.

Gail Kastning: And so I call it real time research where, you know, you can't really look at labor information from six months ago. Now we have to have real time information. And that means talking to businesses and over the course of this pandemic, that's what I've been doing. I just reach out to businesses. I reach out to MLA's. I have conversations with the MLA's. Businesses will approach MLA's and talk to them and say, you know, this is what we're experiencing right now.

Alex Rascanu: These (MLAs) are members of provincial parliament.

Gail Kastning: Yes, absolutely. And then we start to see the alignment between their pandemic thinking in their epidemiology and the business side of this too, because if we don't understand what the needs of businesses are we cannot make a connection. Because the businesses are the people who employ. And that disconnect is going to continue to exist because job seekers, their mindsets are not, are not aligned to the needs. And, and that's what our job is, right? Our job is to facilitate that connection. At least that's how I see our job. So when we're facilitating that connection, we're helping job seekers do that hard work that they don't want to do. It's a scary thing to reach out to employers or to reach out to others and, you know, say what's happening, how are you doing in the pandemic? But, honest to God, all I do is say, how are you doing in the pandemic? I said that to my dentist. And it was just like, Whoa, I had so much information in like 10 minutes. And I mean, I'm not in the dental industry, but I can help other people who are by just having that conversation with my dentist.

Alex Rascanu: There are some people who would feel uncomfortable or would not know where to look for the labor market information. They would not be secure enough in themselves to raise questions to employers. The needs of employers are right now are very much around survival . Something that job seekers can take away when they go into work environment, they can reflect upon not just how they're doing their job, but also how they can add value to the employer from a revenue perspective. When you have in your mind how can I add revenues to my employer and more than pay the cost that they're incurring to employ me... wow.. you will have a chief executive officer, a head of finance and head of operations really want to engage with you on the business development side of the business even if you're almost the most junior person in their organization, because you have ideas you have in mind what they have in mind and all of a sudden the career path that you imagine might take 10, 15 years can happen in 3 to 5.

Gail Kastning: Exactly. And that's what a lot of job seekers don't realize is that, quite frankly, you have to pay for your own position. You have to bring enough value to that organization to pay for your own position. Otherwise they can't afford you. So you either have to be saving time, saving money or making money to pay for your position, or creating some type of efficiency or convenience that is bringing in that revenue because business owners have to be able to pay for you. And I understand that as a business owner, I have to be able to pay for my freelancer. I have to be able to pay for my subcontractor. So they have to bring some value in there so that I can, I can make that revenue to be able to pay their salary. Because otherwise there's no need. And again, it comes down to that need.

Alex Rascanu: I think this is a good point to end on: really understanding the needs of employers as we carve out our career paths and potentially while developing entrepreneurial initiatives. Thank you for your time, Gail. I really appreciate you being at The Career Planning Show.

Gail Kastning: My pleasure.

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