The Degree Dilemma

So, you’ve retired from a traditional job and have either a pension or some income through your personal retirement funds.  Or, you just live really frugally.  Either way, you need more moulah, but you don’t want to tie yourself into a traditional management or other job?

Piece of cake, right?   Just go get a job as a greeter at Walmart or a Barista at Starbucks.

Not so fast if you have a Bachelors degree, or heaven forbid a Masters of Anything.

It’s a strange employment market out there these days, for sure.  On one hand, there are underemployed recent college graduates slinging coffee everywhere.  On the other, both I and several of my acquaintances of a certain age have received flat out rejections from companies without even being granted an interview.    Reason?

Overqualified.  Or, the real head-scratcher…not qualified.  Seriously?  To scan bar codes?

As frustrating as this is, there are a few ways to circumvent the plethora of “apply online” processes that are ridiculously complicated,  and impersonal.  Here are some of my suggestions:

In-Person Applications

Go TO the store or business where you would like to work and ask to speak to the manager.   It looks much better if you ask for that person by name, so calling ahead to get it, or asking while shopping there is worthwhile.

Introduce yourself, and explain that you understand they are seeking XXX employees.  You have applied online, but that you realize they likely receive hundreds of applications and you want to take the time to come in personally and distinguish yourself from the crowd.   Does he or she have five minutes for a brief introduction?

Be ready to counter the “overqualified” argument.  Keep in mind that many managers are anxious about hiring someone with more qualifications than they possess.  This isn’t always the case, but sadly does happen.  Reassure them that you understand the job responsibilities and have done your time in their shoes.  You are just looking for some extra income and benefits, or something to do, or you love books or crafts and want to be in that environment….just be ready to address the issue.

It should go without saying that you dress the part, right?

Strategic Timing

Right now, many businesses in the US are gearing up for summer hiring.   Even if you want a permanent job, be willing to start with a temporary one.   Again, apply online, but follow up with an in-person visit.

The same applies in the Fall for holiday hiring.  But keep in mind, most companies post in the positions NOW for summer, and in September for holiday season.  Don’t wait too long.


I’ll be honest, I have REALLY mixed feelings about this one.  I am big on honesty.  And also tired of being told I am overqualified because I have a Masters degree.  Yes, I’ve been tempted to simply leave it off an application.   I can’t advise you to do this or not.

My absolute advice is to never, ever, no matter what, never FALSIFY an application with credentials you don’t have, or failure to report a firing or criminal situation.


Do you know anyone who knows anyone who knows the hiring manager or someone who works there?   See if you can get an introduction or someone willing to run interference.    Some positions are just bombarded with applications and the manager would love a candidate to stand out.

Follow These Steps:
  1. Make a list of the ten places you would most like to work.
  2. Check all the local job boards, national job sites, and the corporate web page under the link for “careers” for posted openings.
  3. Contact your friends, acquaintances, club members and see if you can find a contact link.
  4. Get the manager’s name.
  5. Put in the application online if required.
  6. Make your in-person contact.

Don’t give up if you don’t hear anything back, or receive a rejection.  If there is somewhere in particular you want to work, frequent it as a customer and keep trying.  It’s trite, but businesses want people working for them who like their products.


Slow Down, You’re Going Too Fast….

“You gotta make the morning last…”

What a great song AND a great message.  Can you believe this is from the sixties?   Here’s the original from Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme album.  Feelin’ Groovy

And then this article from today’s Foxnews Health about a village in Italy that is home to over 300 people who are over 100 years old.   The Good Life in Italy

The older I get the more the urge to SLOW DOWN grows.  I find myself wanting to detach from my smart phone, for example.  It’s smarter than I am anyway.   Stop eating standing at the kitchen counter and go sit outside somewhere and savor my meal.   Check email once a day.  Seriously, if it’s urgent, the person can call me on the cell phone.  Oh…wait.  SIGH.

I have this daydream of slow everything.  Slow travel – where I go somewhere for more than three days and leisurely learn the local’s secrets, along with the best time of day to take pictures and to  take a nap.   Slow eating – where I cook from fresh ingredients purchased that day.  Moseying through that meal with great conversation and yes, a glass of vino.  Slow work – getting it done right the first time without rushing, or pressure, or cranky co-workers.   Slow reading – drinking in the words of a novel instead of squeezing them into gaps in the day.  A slow bike ride, to see nature instead of try to get the right number of steps in for the day.

SLOWER.  Everything slower.  I need a bumper sticker.  The Slow Life.

Anyone feel that way too?   Pick a day this week, any day, and live it slowly.  I’ll share my attempt in a future post.



Take a look at this turtle will you?  That position he/she is holding, one leg forward one up in back…he/she held it frozen for several minutes while I loitered on a bridge above snapping photos.

Maybe “it” hoped I would think it was just another sculpture among the many in this park?

Maybe it figured if I was a predator I might not notice it if it didn’t move.  Kind of like a dinosaur.

And the whole time I’m thinking, “You and me, turtle.  Analysis Paralysis.  Do I stay or do I go?  Take the plunge?  Jump into the water? Sit frozen in the lovely sunlight and hope potentially bad things (like being eaten by a predator) don’t happen?”

In a world SO filled with things that I want to do, why is it so hard to do them?   Is it because what is easy to do, is easy NOT to do as well?

I was on an assignment for a photography class.   While most of my fellow attendees had boarded a bus for downtown Palm Springs, I opted for this park.  I wanted to visit a sculpture honoring victims of the Holocaust – it struck me that in this desert town inland California there would be such a piece of art.

But I had stopped at the pond, entranced by the clusters of turtles sunning on the sides.  As I approached, they’d launched themselves into the water, swimming for their lives.

Except this guy.   Frozen.  My buddy.

My frozen is different, of course. Do I stay the course and work on a full-time income via various freelancing gigs?  Or do I acquiesce to the realities and pressures of where we are now, and seek traditional employment again?

The pragmatic versus the plan.   The heart versus the head.  The Dreamer versus the Realist.

I waited.  He/she/it waited.

And while I stood frozen, camera poised, in the stillness, the answer.  In the peace of the moment, a flash of clarity.   From a few weeks of “which way do I go” to a pinpoint answer of “that way.”

My shoulders unhinged – that stunning moment of relaxation where the tension just flows away like runoff from a storm.   THAT way.  Go THAT way right now.    I took a great big inhale of the sauna temperature air (it was 95F…in April) and released a slow breath.

My little friend, picking up on my slight movement, blasted into the water.

THAT way.  Go that way.

You got it buddy.   Thanks.



Just Take a Deep Breath and Hit Reset

I apologize for NOT being much of a blogger lately.

I am certain some will understand the notion of things just happening that set us back.  Nothing earth-shattering for me.  Just stuff, you know?

My computer hard drive failed.   Four weeks with the computer doctor and most of my documents and pictures ultimately salvaged.

I came down with a case of shingles.  Attention my friends!  PLEASE get the vaccine.  I don’t care how old or young you are.  Technically, I was not in a risk group, so my doctor had not suggested I get the shot.  We caught it early, and the medicine kept it from spreading, but I did still deal with a fair amount of discomfort for several weeks.

Pup is still a handful.

Finally caught up on my studies in my Educator Prep program for my teaching certificate – another victim of the damaged computer.  And, last week I passed the first of three state exams.  Whew.  One down.

So, how goes semi-retirement?

Eh…let’s be honest.  I am not EXACTLY where I want to be.

But, I am making progress.  I have been able to spend a great deal of time with my still-at-home teenage son, and he seems to be in a better place.   I worked six days during Spring break at the National Flight Academy.

Last weekend, I was very lucky to get to take a short cruise up the west coast.   One morning, my roommate and I got up early to watch the ship arrive in Victoria, BC, and I got to experiment a little with my new (used) camera.

I love seeing the sunrise (although alarm clocks, not so much).  It’s a good time to take a deep breath, and welcome the dawn of a new day.   I finally seem to be to a point where I am not so far behind that I think I’m in front.

It’s the season for summer job postings and applications.  I’ve got my summer gig lined up teaching middle and high school kids cool math and science through aviation.   If you want a seasonal job in the US, they are plentiful during the summer.   What will it be?  Driving a tour bus in Alaska?   Giving tours at the Grand Canyon?  Tending bar on the outer banks?

Why not give something new a try this year?

Lots of good opportunities at Coolworks Seasonal Job Site.


Choosing Gratitude

So…just before Christmas we got a dog.

A puppy, actually.  She was ten weeks old when we adopted her from a shelter group.  My son had been begging for a dog, a puppy specifically, for YEARS.  My husband didn’t want to take it on.  But, I felt a pull that it was the right thing to do.

I was wrong.

So now, we have a dog.   She’s going to be huge.  At 4 months, she weighs 28 lbs.  She is smart enough to be hard to train.  She bites.  Well, they call it “mouthing” but when a dog is her size, it’s biting. She gets “puppy frenzy” and gets so crazed we have to crate her or hold her tight til she comes down.  Efforts to teach her good doggie manners so far are mixed.

Everyone in the house is exhausted, and we’ve had to all change our processes so that she gets taken out on time, doesn’t spend too long in the crate, etc.  We have walls built to block her from parts of the house, and we all have to climb over, or shift objects to get around them.  The love seat is full of the dining room chairs to keep her from chewing on it, and now we all eat at the kitchen counter because there aren’t any chairs at the dining room table…

I’ve regretted the decision to get her.  But my son is very bonded with her, and truthfully, I love the furry little bitch too.   She has the sweetest face, and I know there’s the heart of a very good dog in there.


In the midst of this, in my excellent Leonie Dawson planner, one of the goals I set for myself in 2016 was to be more grateful in general.  And specifically for what I HAVE.

Doing a six-week status update/review with myself last evening, I had to think a lot about 30 pounds of puppy whipcord and spring steel.  And I realized that I owe her some gratitude.

Thanks to her relentless desire to be outside, and our lack of a fence, I’ve gotten to know my backyard again.  I’ve been out at all hours and temperatures tethered to her leash while she finds the perfect place to deposit her umpteenth digestive action of the day.  I’ve noticed in the dark, how lovely the Florida room looks at night, windows all around and and the light from within casting a glow.

I’ve taken a deck chair out to the middle of the yard and just sat so she could sniff and meander at the end of the leash.  And looked up at a honk to see five Canadian geese do a low and slow flyby.  A pair of hawks is nesting two houses over, and their flight path glides right over our house and yard.

I’ve given moments of love to our leaning towers of pine trees. Three of them in the back yard, all with about a ten degree lean to the northwest thanks to Hurricane Ivan’s fierce Category III winds in 2004.

Lamenting the lack of care that has allowed most of our yard to fall in to disrepair, I’ve found a way to put her on a stake and leash, and me to rake pine needles and pick up pine cones.  I spent over an hour one crisp Saturday morning pulling prickly vines away from the house.

I’ve become an ant murderer.

My son and I have laughed over the torture of poop patrol, our noses stuffed with peppermint oil scented cotton balls. We work as a team to gather the crud – I spot, he scoops.  The dog and the yard seem to run on a similar schedule.  She needs a bath about the same time the yard gives off eau de manure to excess.

When he is in school and I am NOT substituting, I have to do everything in two hour segments.  She naps I work.  When she’s up, all attention is on her.  Yes, JUST like a baby. This works some days and others thrusts me in to overwhelm,  But no doubt, it is a discipline I needed.

And no matter how much I scold her, or fuss when she tries to chew on my Persian carpet, or bellow when she nips my tush…no matter what, when I come to get her out of the crate when I get home from school, or after we’ve been out for several hours, no matter what, she is so happy to see me.  She wiggles and whimpers little happy sounds, and rolls over for a tummy rub.

I think then, maybe, I wasn’t wrong after all.


Daring to Be Divergent

If I lived in the dystopian future world of Veronica Roth’s young adult novel series, I’d probably be divergent.   Thank goodness that doesn’t involve jumping from moving trains or hand-to-hand combat in today’s world.

(And on a complete thread drift – if you have read the Divergent novels…what did you think of book three, Allegiant?  I HATED it.  Completely ruined the series for me.)

Okay, so in these novels, and the accompanying movies, people were slotted at a young age into a fixed personality type. Each group performed specific tasks in the community.  Divergents could fit into more than one of the groups, and were considered dangerous outcasts.

It’s not so different in some ways now, when someone goes to school to be some ONE thing for their entire life.   Many many people are perfectly content with this and it works well for them. And those of us who don’t fit that model well are often criticized for not “sticking with anything.”

Divergents.   We like LOTS of different things.  Constant change.  Constant learning.  Once we’ve mastered something, boredom sets in. Our definition of doing something doesn’t necessarily extend to mastering it.  I’ve given the example before of the person who wants to learn to play the cello.  He or she might not want to BE a cellist, but wants to know HOW it works.  How to make it sing, how to hold it, how the notes work.

So, how does this fit into The Semi-Retired Life?  Well, in my ideal vision, I’d actually do two to three different quarter or half year long jobs each year.   But, I can also do work for 8 – 10 months a year and take one longer break and be very happy.

The key is in the break. It’s about the time OFF.

That’s where the magic lies.  The chance to take anywhere from one to three months and go do something totally different is often enough of a change of place to reinvigorate our interest in our work.  It’s the concept behind a sabbatical.  Unfortunately, only academia and some of the newer high-tech companies tend to embrace it.

So for me, Divergent means that I love to teach AND love to learn.  It means that I could be happy teaching math OR french.  I’d be ecstatic teaching BOTH – the perfect divergent solution would be half classes of math the other half classes of french.  Divergents make excellent teachers because they are such avid LEARNERS.

They also often tend to be the office Jack or Jill of-all-trades in the office or at a venue like a restaurant or resort.  They make great tradesmen (persons?) or general contractors.

Barbara Sher called us Scanners, BTW, long before the Roth novels. 🙂   Refuse to Choose

Are you Divergent?  Is that why a Semi-Retired Life appeals to you?  Or, do you just want more time off?

All ways work.

Beyond the Internet

Whether  it’s a dream job, or a practical seasonal one that allows the time off you are seeking, it’s vital to research it. Here are five things you can do beyond just keywords and the internet.

One – The Yellow Pages

Despite the advent of the internet for advertising and information, the Yellow Pages are still an absolute must for many local businesses. Those ads aren’t cheap, and you’ll notice some businesses buy them year after year. I’ve had small business owners tell me NOT buying the ad one year cut their walk-in business in half. That said, the yellow pages can be a great resource. Most of them have a cross-reference index, so if you are interested in counseling, you can look at the index to see the various sections a “counselor” might be listed. Want to work with animals? Check out the cross-reference by type of animals – there’s a lot beyond grooming and vets. The purpose is two-fold. You’ll find out what businesses already exist in your town. And, you might get ideas for your area of interest by looking at other areas.

Two – The Magazine Rack at a Big Book Store

Have you ever really examined the magazine racks at one of the big box bookstores? It’s amazing how many different specialty and trade magazines exist. With advertising still in tough times, many of the weaker ones are folding. So, if a magazine is still being published, they’ve got enough advertisers to keep it open. See what kind of magazines might exist in your area of interest. Take it section by section and take your time. If the magazine rack is just too big and overwhelming, you can review the Writer’s Market publications, which list most titles and their content.

Three – Local Clubs and Associations

It varies by community, but the Library or the Chamber of Commerce usually maintain a list of active clubs, organizations, and associations with contact people, focus, etc. Look over the list and see if there is a group in any way related to your passion or area of interest. Consider joining, or contact the organizer to learn more about it.

Four – Community College Non-Credit Continuing Education

If you have a local college, see if they offer non-credit continuing education courses. These are classes for anything from digital photography, to Italian cooking, to yoga. They usually meet for one long day, or several times over a few weeks and are strictly for people to learn about something that interests them. See if there are any classes about your area of interest. If not, why not approach the school about teaching one next semester?   This can be a great place to pick up that skill you need for a temporary or seasonal position.

Five – Never Miss a Bulletin Board

As you are going about your day, make it a point to notice bulletin boards. They’re everywhere! Coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, community centers, libraries, club houses, and even gyms. These days many businesses have a bulletin board where customers or members can post business cards, flyers, or other requests. Check out your local ones and see what’s happening.

The point of all of these is to get you out in your local community talking about your interest and finding out if there are other people interested in it, doing it, or seeking it. The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be.

Question Ideas for Informational Interviews

When you arrive at your interview, or via electronics, be sure to thank them for their time and get their complete contact information. That way, if you get rushed at the end for any reason, you still have their information for future contact and to send a “thank you” note. Have your pen and paper ready, with your questions written down. Be sure to ask the following:

One – How did you get into this field? (Variation – What made you want to get into this field?)

By asking a question about the person you are interviewing and their interests, you are giving them a chance to speak about themselves. Also, it gives you the opportunity to identify common interests and find new ones.

Two – What do you like most about what you do?

Answers may surprise you. People choose to do things for a variety of reasons.

Three – What is missing in serving your field? (Variation – What kind of support do you need you can’t find?)

The purpose of this question is to think outside the box of the specific job or business the person is in. While you may love the idea of that exact position, you might be able to develop something that serves it well. Keeps you in a field you love, but in another function. Also may give you business ideas.

Four – What’s the biggest misconception about what you do?

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but you may suffer those same misconceptions. It’s an excellent way to get the real scoop.

Five – How do you get/find/keep customers or clients, and how much time do you spend on it?

This probably isn’t relevant for you unless you are planning a solopreneur operation.  One huge challenge for many entrepreneurs is dealing with the marketing and selling aspects of their chosen business. There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to be a holistic massage therapist and having to spend more than half your time looking for clients. Get a feel for how it works for this person. You may find you would prefer to work for someone else and do the one thing you love for pay, than to start your own business and have to spend little time doing what you actually love and too much time finding customers.

Six – How do you get paid? And would you be willing to share a ballpark annual income? Benefits?

Again, depends if they are an employee or entrepreneur, but actually collecting payments may factor into what they do as well. Plus, it’s vital to know how much someone realistically makes if this is what you want to do. Also, follow this one up with how long it took them to make what they are making now.

Seven – What advice would you most want to give someone who is interested in this job, field, or industry? (Variation – What do you wish you’d known before you started?)

If they’ve been doing it any length of time, chances are they have a list of things they wish someone had told them up front. These insights are worth their weight in gold to someone like you analyzing and studying it.

Be sure to take notes, or ask them if you can record it if you’re a lousy note taker. You may think you’ll remember it all, but chances are you won’t. Stay on time and be sure to send that “thank you” note afterwards.

Try Informational Interviewing

You might remember the expression “informational interviewing.”  It was popularized decades ago in Richard N Bolles book “What Color is Your Parachute?”  A process that doesn’t get much press anymore, this technique can be REALLY helpful in identifying jobs or industries that you might love (or hate!), or how you might get your foot in the door if you lack relevant experience.

Informational Interviewing is not job-interviewing. It’s a process for you to learn about an industry or a specific job title, or a way for you to identify unmet needs and opportunities in fields that you love. Here’s how to get the most out of an informational interview.

One – Find the People to Interview

I realize that seems obvious. But how? First, decide what or who, by job type, you want to speak to. So, for example, you are interested in medicine and you want to speak to a nurse. Contact everyone you know who is a nurse, and contact the rest of your friends and ask them if they know any nurses. Explain that you are interested in finding out more about this as a profession, and that you are asking for fifteen to twenty minutes of their time to answer some questions. If you don’t know anyone and and friends can’t point you to someone, try the yellow pages, or human resource departments of local businesses in that field.

Maybe you just know you love photography. Same thing. If you don’t know any photographers, ask your friends if they do. Then, seek out businesses or companies in that field to find people. For that matter, go to a social media site like Twitter or Facebook and ask for photographers who would be willing to do an informational interview. You’ll be amazed.

Two – Make an Appointment

Set up a specific time, date, and place to conduct the interview. If it’s at their place of business, be sure to ask what hours are the easiest for them to break away for fifteen minutes. If you are meeting outside work, make sure you buy the coffee or lunch. Reassure the person that you are just trying to learn a few things about the field and that you have (give them a number – 7 or 8 at most) questions to ask. Make certain you have their contact number to reach them that day should a problem arise.

Three – Be on Time and Stay on Time

Be there when you said you would, and wrap it up in the time frame you originally asked them to give you. If they are willing to continue, then by all means continue to pick their brains as long as possible.

Four – Get Their Contact Information First

As soon as you introduce yourself and before you begin the questioning, get their contact information including mailing address. Ideally a business card, but if not, write it down at the top of your notes. Name (correctly spelled) phone, email, address. Do this first in case the person is called away or agrees to go over the time limit and then you get interrupted. At the end of the interview, be sure to ask if you may follow up with them as you continue to learn.

Five – Send a Hand-Written Thank You Note

Since this was not a job interview, you should not send a formal typed follow up letter. This should be a courteous, personal “thank you” from you to them for their time and information.  This is very much a lost art and it does get you noticed.  You never know when this contact may come in handy down the road.

In a separate article, I’ll address actual questions and topics to ask in the interview. For now, be sure to conduct it appropriately and secure the person as a future contact in the business by being professional, courteous, and appreciative.

**Dream Job Alert**

One of the things I love to do is showcase just how many fascinating part-year jobs are out there for the applying/taking.   While this one wouldn’t necessarily set my heart to pitter-patter, I suspect many would love this opportunity.

The pay looks decent too – $115 -350/day.

Check it out.  Even if this isn’t your cup of tea, it’s really fascinating to see how some businesses are set up, and what skills you might already have that they seek.  Frequently, degrees or formal education takes a backseat to good old-fashioned experience.

And, if you would love this, but DON’T have the required experience, contemplate how you might get it.  Find out how to get a Commercial Driver’s License in your state, and where you can get CPR certified.

Tour Guide to the National Parks – Private Company

Have a great day – you can make this happen!

Over Fifty And Two or Three Weeks Vacation Isn't Cutting It Anymore? What If You Could Get Two or Three MONTHS Off Every Year?