Surfing the Gig Economy uses the metaphor of surfing to describe how clients can adapt to the 21st Century world-of-work, one that most workers find to be messy, chaotic, frightening, and unreliable. I have traveled the world to witness the effects global capitalism, rapid technological advancement, and hyper-connectivity have on all types of workers.

My goal for this class is to give you a different on-line course experience. One that encourages you to ask questions that have remained unasked, to think deeply about your own experiences of work as they have formed the spectrum of privilege and opportunity you have in your life, and to shift your career services practice to better incorporate ideas of career adaptability and self-management for you and your clients.

The primary audience for this course is any career services professional (e.g., coaches, facilitators, human resource professionals, counselors, psychologists) working with clients adapting to the 21st Century World-of-work, therefore this course impacts our work with all clients.

At the conclusion of the course, you will be able to:

  • Better understand your own experiences, thoughts, and beliefs about the 21st Century world-of-work.
  • Use the 5 part Surfing the Gig Economy framework in your own career practice.
  • Help clients identify assets, barriers, and obstacles when planning their future.
  • Determine the type of goals they wish to pursue in gig economy.
  • Create an action plan to ensure they maintain momentum towards their goals.
  • Maintain a “curation plan” that supports their goals.
  • Use the idea of the “trip of a lifetime” to remain centered and focused through constant career transition.

This course has five lessons. In each you may be asked to read text or documents, access web links, view videos, listen to audio, internalize what you are learning, journal, brainstorm, and answer questions about the course content. When you are asked to perform any of these activities, this will be listed in red.

As you move through the course, you will track your progress by answering questions on a worksheet. This worksheet will be submitted to the instructor at the end of the course to verify your earned continuing education units.

Download the worksheet here.

You will send this completed worksheet to your instructor.  Once the worksheet is reviewed for completeness, your instructor will recommend that a certificate of completion will be sent to you. Your certificate will reflect 6 clock hours for your certifications, recertifications, and credentials. Clock hours are calculated based on the quality criteria specified by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

The materials offered to you in this course are protected by copyright law and must not be shared with any other individual.

Let me close by sharing that much of the work addressing the current chaotic world-of-work is initially overwhelming for many of us. This is why I chose surfing as a metaphor for this model. Having not yet surfed myself, I find the power and magnitude of the ocean terrifying but trust those who do surf when they tell me that in the face of the ocean’s raw power they find their greatest joy and comfort.

Let’s learn to surf together!

Intro to Surfing and Your Gig Plans

I have provided you with the “My Surfing Guide” document as a download for this course. Please download 2 copies; make one for you to use throughout the five lessons and one for you to use with clients in your career practice.    It is best for you to complete your own as we go along.

Mindset, and more specifically attentional focus, is something that I think matters greatly in our work. As 21st Century career practitioners, we need to be centered in our minds about how our work effects clients as the interreact with the most complex and dynamic world in human history. The reality is that most of what we learned in our training programs was developed for a much different system of work. Ethically, we must question our practices to ensure we are best serving our clients.

Please read the following article  written from a Canadian perspective. I chose this piece because it succinctly outlines the legal and ethical dilemmas clients face while working or considering working in the gig economy.

My hope is that you are already thinking about your career services practice and how you know your approach is best helping clients adapt to work in our current age.

Throughout this course I would like for you keep a journal of some kind. There will be stopping points along the way where you will be prompted to pause, reflect, and collect your thoughts. This journal is just for you so it might be an existing journal you already have, a Word document on your computer, or a sketch pad where you can doodle away with your thoughts. The important thing is that it fits you!

For your first journaling assignment,  I want you to view the following 5 minutes video of surfers in action. Some will find the idea of the unknown frightening, possibly making you feel anxious. Others will be exhilarated at the idea of riding waves and looking for work in the great unknown. Finally, shift your thoughts for the final minute to a client who is the opposite of you. If your response is exhilaration, then theirs might be fright. How would you help them cope?

On your blank page, you might make three sections titled:

My emotional and cognitive responses to surfing.

My emotional and cognitive responses to the 21st Century world of work.

A client who is different than me.

Of course, you may abbreviate your sections.

Note your emotional and cognitive responses as you watch them try to ride the wave and then wipe out. After a couple of minutes, shift your attention to the current complex and dynamic world of work.

Now, I would like to guide you through the first dialogue for the course. I use the term dialogue versus lecture or presentation because I hope to engage you in a dynamic process of personal exploration and learning. We will see if this works as you watch the videos below.

As a reminder, please have a writing utensil and paper (at least one blank) with you before you begin.

There are many different perspectives on the gig economy in the international media. Please view this one which is an excellent summary to get us started.

You can really empathize with client distress as they think about engaging with this new world-of-work. In the final video in Lesson 1 we will begin to look at the Surfing the Gig Economy Model and how you can use it as a practical tool when working with clients.

Now that you have finished with Lesson 1, answer questions 1-3 on your worksheet. Once finished with that, you can go to Lesson 2!

How to Find the Right Kind of Brand Story

How are you thinking about the Gig Economy and your clients’ experience of it after lesson 1? Has anything shifted for you? Are you more aware of the processes by which you form thoughts, beliefs, and opinions about the current world of work? Are there aspects of your work with clients that you might need to reframe?

Let’s begin Lesson 2 watching a fun 5-minute video about side hustles, full-time freelancing, and making choices in the Gig Economy. You will note that there are a lot of life “structural” issues to be thought about throughout. It is important to remember that this video is U.S. centric (although similar issues arise across cultures) and optimistic (it assumes that workers have a choice, and many don’t).

Hopefully that got your brain juices flowing! During lesson 1 we revealed the ways that clients must confront the new paradigm of 21st Century Work which is often psychologically distressing. Some of this distress is due to the paradigm change; some is due to realistic “structural” factors that warrant attention.

This 15-minute documentary style video set in London takes a less optimist view of gig work, highlighting how this economy currently is offering workers poor working conditions.  Watch it here.

Thinking back to Lesson 1, watching this video reminds me to do a thorough intake appointment to understand client obstacles as well as assets. The Surfing the Gig Economy Model does focus on the positive to create hope with clients; at the same time, we have an ethical obligation to ensure our work with clients is to their benefit. Please refer to my course Career Work is Justice Work for more information on this topic.

For Lesson 2, I want us to explore the components of getting one’s needs met through work in the gig economy by identifying a strong personal brand that communicates what they are looking for while also giving them what they need. To begin, consider the idea of thriving within this competitive labor market.

Please read this article about the 4 components of thriving in the gig economy.

Take a moment to write in your journal (remember from class 1 when I asked you to keep a journal… you thought I would forget didn’t you?) about your thoughts about thriving in the gig economy. What are the benefits and dangers to be aware of when doing your work?


Now, there is an entire body of science, theory, and practice of branding that is as varied as that of counseling, coaching, or human resources development. The Surfing Model makes one recommendation for how one might work with clients in creating their personal brand but is not necessity THE WAY that might work for you.

Please remember, the point of this course is that you UNDERSTAND & ADAPT your current practice! Therefore, I would like you to read the following 2 articles written by the same Branding Expert. These will provide an alternative, another valid way of approaching this work with clients, to my method. The choice of how you adapt YOUR practice is yours!!

Please read Creating Your Personal Brand Statement and

10 Step Personal Branding Worksheet


Are you ready for Step 2 of the Surfing the Gig Economy Model? It might be a good to take a break, cleanse the mental palate, and prepare to focus on one specific part of the broader client experience… using the idea of a personal brand story to orient ourselves to “building” something positive. Let’s dig a little deeper into the model with this next video dialogue lasting  19 minutes. Please watch the video.

Today we began with a broader reflection on issues with the gig economy system, both how it can be beneficial but also how it might be harmful. Clients will need to focus on a positive view of the system to build hope for their working future. Career service professionals will need to keep obstacles and realities in mind throughout the process, using them as a check against the progress made to ensure clients are benefiting from your work together.

The Surfing Model uses building one’s personal brand story to mentally reframe client thinking towards a positive, more hopeful future. This fits with the postmodern theory ideas of owning one’s story and values, making them portable with you wherever you are doing whatever you are doing.

Brand building with your clients should be positive and energizing if it is to be effective therefore we career service professionals MUST pay attention to the human element – monitoring our clients for their emotional state and level of engagement. This keeps us from convincing clients this is good, instead clients must lead us to a good place with this kind of work.

In Lesson 3 will tie this personal brand story work to client assets to ensure that their gig economy work is helping them build and sustain a better life.

Complete items 4-6 on your worksheet. Then move on to the next lesson.

Keeping the Momentum by Structuring Your Life Space

Welcome to Lesson 3 where we keep rolling, or should I say “wave riding”, with the Surfing the Gig Economy Model? At this point, we have laid the foundation for work with career clients by helping reframe their mindsets about the gig economy and building a personal brand story as a coping tool. Now, we need to build their capacity to learn to thrive in the gig environment.

Let’s set the stage with this interview with professor and author Louis Hyman talking about the possibility of the Gig Economy, the pathway forward to this economy being good for workers, and a hopeful future. Watch this video.

As Stephen Covey recommended, I want this video to help us begin with the end in mind. If we have an idea of the structure we want for a worker within the gig economy, we can use this as a baseline for helping our clients build their own capacity until that reality is realized.

My basic premise for this portion of the Surfing Model is that we must help clients achieve the following to thrive in the gig economy:

  1. Be self-led.
  2. Be self-organized.
  3. Be self-managed.
  4. Be engaged in a self-created community.

If you look at the first of two prompts on “My Surfing Guide” you will see that the essential question for 3a. is “What are my most important transferrable skills?”

When you ask a client this question, they will likely provide you with their excellent list of “soft skills, technical abilities, and credentials. You must capture these and hold them as important. Further, you must help the client connect these attributes to the essential prompt, “What lights your fire?”

As an avid camper in my youth, I know starting a fire is at times difficult but once done leads to the on-going process of maintaining your fire. You must make sure to have enough fuel to keep the fire going as hot and long as you need it; you must organize the fire in such a way that it meets your needs (e.g., build a heat shield for a heating fire, proper placement of coals for a cooking fire, etc.); you must manage the fire over time so it does not go out; and… I have never “met” a fire that wasn’t more useful or pleasurable than one shared with a community.

So, let’s get cooking…? (I am realizing that I am mixing my metaphors here – fire and water… yin and yang… just hang in there with me.)

We want to help our clients learn to think about these four components of thriving in the gig economy.

  1. Be self-led.
  2. Be self-organized.
  3. Be self-managed.
  4. Be engaged in a self-created community.

Items 1-3 are components of item 3a. My most important transferrable skill on My Surfing Guide. We want to use that most transferable skill to orient clients to developing their ability to be self… led, organized, and managed. Item 4 is approached separately as item 3b. My network that works for me because it is a different type of thought process.

  1. Be self-led.

Now, I am not going to do all the work here so let’s watch an excellent 6:20 Ted Talk from Sarah Hinawi on being self-led in the gig economy.

Can you envision doing this type of work with your clients? What techniques or exercise might you do to encourage a self-leading plan with a client centered on their one most transferrable skill? I will provide examples in my video at the end of this lesson.

  1. Be self-organized.

This is the point where I want to get a little more scientific with you. Self-organization is a key aspect of chaos theory which is the theory that I believe is most accurate in describing the human reaction to the gig economy.

Take a few minutes and read about how chaos and system self-organization is thought about from the employer/ company perspective. We will discuss how this concept is applied from a client perspective in my dialogue in this section.

How do you already help your clients identify and/or create awareness of patterns in their lives? Do you help them identify adaptive versus maladaptive patterns? Do you help them change patterns? Again, I will speak more directly to this in my video at the end of this lesson.

  1. Self-managed.

This aspect of coaching/ counseling is in my opinion one of the greatest gifts we can give our clients. So many of us have been fooled into thinking about time in maladaptive ways, feeling almost enslaved to time. I can’t speak to this better than Rory Vaden, the author of “Take the Stairs” so do enjoy his 18:31 Ted Talk here:

**DISCLAIMER – There is a specific religious reference at the end of the video. Please note that I and this system does not promote any specific faith system. This reference is made but does not change the importance of the author’s content**

How do you encourage your clients to think about time? Urgency and importance are easy and often orientations of thought that clients walk in the door with, how do you foster thinking about significance?

Encouraging self-management, becoming a multiplier thinker, adopting significance thinking is an important element of 21st Century career work. I will address this more in my video at the end of this lesson.

  1. Be engaged in a self-created community.

We are NOT thinking about small things in this lesson. Take a break to let it soak in if you need it. We are now moving on to item 3b. My network that works for me is of My Surfing Guide. Once we address the three ways to direct oneself above, we need to think about client support systems.

The reality is that clients may change their thoughts, behaviors, or emotions while working with career services professionals but they often do not simultaneously change their social world. Thriving in the gig economy requires one to self-create a community that challenges and supports them in pursuit of their goals, is sustaining for them through ups and downs, and at times is part of their network.

I other words… to be self-led, self-organized, and self-managed a client will need to have a social network that supports them in these enterprises. Understanding comes before adaptation therefore I recommend using an ecomap technique with clients to help them understand their social networks.

Read this basic guide to ecomapping.   

Now, you will have to adapt it a bit. My adaption includes:

Identifying 3 types of persons within their social network:

  1. Work community of practice
  2. Work community of support
  3. Mentors

These three types of person in one’s network require some definition:

  1. Work community of practice is the community or communities that do the same types of work you do. For example, if you are a graphic designer then it is other designers who you might get/give referrals to, ask to help with technical problems, or attend professional development together.
  2. Work community of support is the community that provides professional support to you. It might be people at a co-working space, colleagues you interact with (e.g., a salesperson or vendor that provides your equipment) but who do not have the same technical skills you do.
  3. Mentors are those who possess more experience than you and are committed to helping you grow professionally.

I use color pencils when I ecomap so that each type of person has a different color. Of course, some persons may meet 2 or even 3 of the designations so they end up being multicolored. The goal is to create, and if needed recruit, a full ecomap that encompasses all three types of persons in a quantity that works for your client.

I keep the aspects of ecomaps from the reading identified below with the idea that the impact (positive/ negative) and strength/ strain is held within the parameter of type (i.e., work community of practice, work community of support, mentors) of relationship each person provides:

  1. Positive relationship
  2. Negative relationship
  3. Strong relationship
  4. Strained relationship

This is a super full lesson! There are four key components of the model in this one section, each is a key aspect of helping clients prepare to thrive in the gig economy. Each can take as little as 30 minutes of session time or as much as 5 or 6 appointments. Please remember that I am asking you to adapt or shift your current career practice in meeting the 21st Century needs of your clients so you must make choices on how to adapt these ideas to your practice. My dialogue video below will provide some more information to help fill the gaps. It is 28 minutes long which allows us to thoroughly (I hope) demonstrate the ideas and techniques behind this most import phase of the model. Watch it below.

This content rich class session now comes to a close. Lesson 4 and 5 are a bit more celebratory than these first three lessons. We do not move forward in the Surfing Model unless we have accomplished the tasks at hand therefore you will wish to approach lessons 4 and 5 envisioning using them with clients who have successfully navigated the first three lessons.

Complete items 7-11 on your worksheet before you move on,

Curate Your Own Career Brand Geer

We have surpassed the tipping point in our Surfing the Gig Economy work with clients by this point in the model. We have reframed their mindset towards the gig economy, helped them develop a personal brand that orients them to this new world of work with a positive outlook, taught them how to use the burning fire to become self-led, self-organized, self-managed, and find a self-created community that will support them regardless of their work situation. We have done a lot and now our role is to help clients celebrate their success and lock in sustainable habits for their career future.

Take a look at the following 4:53 video:

**DISCLAIMER – This video promotes a specific clothing company. This course and model does not promote any corporate entity, this is simply a good mini-documentary to prompt the following exercise.**

Did you think I forgot about your journal? I did not… Lesson 3 was so content rich and thick that I decided to give you a mini-break from journaling. In this lesson, we are actually going to do a lot more guided and self-reflection work in your journal.

Luis Negron from the video discusses how a part of his gear (i.e., professional clothing) was an important element of him finding work and turning his life around. He represents two of the many populations that career professionals most often think about when they consider helping clients “gear up” in veterans and those previously incarcerated.

Additionally, I think Luis addresses the two reasons one might focus on their gear, one being need but the other being self-regard. It is this second reason that makes  using the Surfing Model help all clients focus on the gear.

JOURNAL PROMPT: I want you to spend 20 minutes thinking about a specific client you work with currently or within the past 2 years. Specifically, I want you to think about a client who would be most impacted by the gig economy.

In your journal, please write a “script” similar to the one for Luis Negron. Tell the client’s story around their career work remembering that a good story has three phases: beginning, middle, and end. The beginning can be the story of all the salient material that brought them to the point in their career journey when they came to you. The middle can be the work they wish to do or completed while working with you. The end can be the next decade (yes, 10 years) of their career journey. This last part is conjecture, but base it on them incrementally meeting their career goals more and more towards a final dream career situation. In fact, break the end chapters into three distinct phases covering 10 years from when they ceased/or will cease to work with you.

Make this “script” as interesting and rich as you can. Think of Luis’ story to help guide your work. Each phase might be labelled as the Now phase, the Soon (after some success and growth) phase, and One Day When phase (when they achieved their dreams).

Now let’s take a look at this video of Matthias Wandel curating his home work shop. Watch the video below.

Many career professionals will be wondering why you are watching a video of a guy organizing his home work shop. Let’s pay attention to Matthias as he describes his work…

He is working independently. He is taking great pride in himself. He is taking great pride in the way he is collecting and taking care of his gear. There is a solitary sense of purpose and accomplishment in his work regardless of whether or not he is being paid or has a current project to work on. I would argue that curating his gear like this is a huge resiliency and coping factor for his work.

This is the type of habit and behavior we want to foster in our clients around their gig gear!!

It is important to note that different types of work require different types of gear. A gig worker might have several different gear packages to curate. Let’s take a moment and brainstorm some gear packages:

BRAINSTORM 1: Write down the gear a new gig worker who is driving for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash or other such entry level platforms might need to curate to generate full-time equivalent work. [5 minutes – see if you can come up with 20 items]

BRAINSTORM 2: Write down the gear a gig worker who has been working for 5 years creating websites and social media content using Upwork and social media ads to generate full-time equivalent work. [5 minutes – see if you can come up with 20 items]

BRAINSTORM 3: Write down the gear an experienced (10 years or more) educational consultant and professional development trainer might need to generate full time equivalent work. [5 minutes – see if you can come up with 20 items]

How did you do? Were you able to come up with 60 items across three types of gig work at three different levels of income/ experience in just 15 minutes?

JOURNAL PROMPT: Now, take 10 minutes to go back to your journal. Go to the end of your story, when your client has reached the third phase of their final chapter and all of their career dreams have come true. Describe what their “gear room” might look like.

For some, this was a lot of journaling and self-reflection time. I would argue that we need to learn this skill… to sit deeply with our work, to be able to think about or clients’ lives in real terms, and to think about the way their future might unfold because of their work with us. This type of reflective impact study is how I arrived at the content of this course and the Reframe Your Career Game curriculum.

In the video below, I will talk through this phase of the Surfing Model using a specific example. Additionally, I will add one more organizational schema to this phase by identifying three primary types of gear I help clients think about.

Take a look at the outdated article for examples of tools on-line entrepreneurs might curate in the digital space to perform their work functions. Now… I am using this article first because I like the examples it gives and how it illustrates them… BUT two, I like that it is outdated because it illustrates that curating one’s “gear” is an ongoing process particularly when curating one’s digital gear.  Read it here.

From the article, the following two pieces of digital gear need to be updated:

Hipchat is now replaced by Slack.

Sqwiggle is not replaced by PukkaTeam

**All tools identified are current as of the time of this writing. If more have been discontinued, you can do some homework and find their replacements.**

I want to close this class session with my videos from a favorite charity of mine Playing for Change which brings musicians together digitally from around the world to raise money for music education. I can only imagine the tools used to create such a collaboration. View it below.

Complete items 12-15 on your worksheet before you move on.

Plan Your Career Adventure of a Lifetime

I have long felt, and taught students, that we do clients a disservice if we only “arm” them with tools that work as they leave our last session. Instead, we must “arm” them with the tools that we know from our expertise will help them for years to come if not over the course of their lifetime. One technique for uncentering their mindset towards their new skills from a today only mindset, is to help them project the usefulness of these tools into their positive future. This is what we will learn to do in Session 5… Plan their career adventure of a lifetime!

Is anybody out there? Have you made it to the fifth and final class session? If so, welcome to what I hope is the big payoff for this course.

The end of last class has me connected to my penchant for Playing for Change videos so let’s begin with one of my favorite ones. You will notice that captures the essence of how we want our clients to leave our care… prepared to find the resources and community that will stand by their career work forever. Watch the video below.

The question before us is how would we make it likely that the tools we give our clients will travel forward with them throughout all of the transitions and chaos they will experience in their gig work lives?

Much of this Surfing course is based on the fine work of Jim Bright and Robert Prior and their Chaos Theory of Careers. It is helpful to read this short primer on this approach before we begin.  Please read it here.

Our first clue of how to help clients plan for their career adventure of a lifetime is provided in this reading. Wandering maps are an excellent, non-linear/ emergent exercise to use with clients. Please read these wandering map instructions before we discuss more.

Now this one is a keeper!! I love processing wandering maps with clients… note how you the coach/counselor are the most important tool in making this exercise work for clients. You are the one who encourages non-linear and emergent thinking, helping them build these critical skills for future preparation, adaptation, and transitions.

Wandering maps do not work for everyone therefore I want to provide other options that uncenter working from the traditional employer model while re-centering it with the worker… your client.

Vision boarding is something that many of us have tried, often in my experience without a system of application that might enhance its effectiveness. There are a lot of books and articles out there on this technique, Jack Canfield is one person who is well-known for his vision board work AND has a tried and true system for working with others to help them develop their vision board. Watch the video below and take a look at his recommendations below:

**DISCLAIMER – this video promotes a specific coach and his products. This is being used for educational purposes and is NOT a promotion of him or his products.**

Understanding and Adaptation…

Non-linear and Emergent…

These are the key words I want to keep drilling into our minds as we think about working with clients in the 21st Century i.e., the Gig Economy.

Let’s take a look at one more approach to achieving these goals for the Surfing Model. I had the pleasure of visiting and doing some work at the at Stanford University in 2015. The video below is from one of the co-creators of Design Thinking and the talking about applying Design Thinking to the problem of designing your life using this non-linear and emergent approach. It is 25:20 long but is a great introduction to this approach. Watch it below.

**DISCLAIMER – this video promotes a specific coach and his products. This is being used for educational purposes and is NOT a promotion of him or his products.**

Please take 3 minutes to write in your journal one last time. Quickly (like Design Thinking) write down three things you might do to change your career services practice now that you better understand and can adapt to the gig economy. Each should only be 1-2 sentences and written top-of-mind.

EXTRA: Take 3 more minutes and write your Wild Card Plan as described by Bill Burnett in the video above.

Now that you have finished journaling for this course, I do hope that it is something you might continue as your gig economy-oriented practice develops or at least refer to at points in the future when it might be helpful.

Let’s roll forward now towards closing up this lesson and the Surfing the Gig Economy course.  My final video will wrap up our work together and launch you into your work… helping clients learn to ride the waves of the gig economy with a sense of rejoicing in their hearts and minds.


Complete items 16-17 on your worksheet before you move on.

Congratulations on Completing the Course

Please email your worksheet to Brian Hutchison. 

Please complete this evaluation.


He will review your worksheet and, when it is determined to be complete, he will recommend that you be sent your certificate of completion.

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