Big Brands of the 21st Century: Apple, Coca-Cola, and You with Dr. Chaz Austin

Chaz Austin, Ed.D. is an expert in self marketing for the gig economy. He works with private clients around the world to develop their own personal brand. Dr. Austin teaches courses for Los Angeles Pierce College. He also has developed courses for the Beacon House Association of San Pedro.  

Dr. Austin is a TEDx speaker. His work is featured on LinkedIn Learning. And, his most recent book is 101 Ways to Find Work and Keep Finding Work for the Rest of Your Career



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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Dr. Chaz Austin is like Shaquille O’Neal
  • The advantage is pursuing your doctoral degree as and “older” student
  • Building your doctoral team
  • The economic shift from employees to freelancers
  • Creating your personal brand
  • You get ahead by focusing on them

In this episode…

In the 21st Century jobs don’t last forever. Increasingly, they’re not even called jobs anymore. We now live in a Gig Economy, and Dr. Chaz Austin is here to show you how to survive and thrive, gig after gig.

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, Dr. Chaz Austin and Dr. Russell Strickland talk about the Gig Economy and the freedom it can create for folks with doctoral degrees. Dr. Austin demonstrates how workers in the Gig Economy are de facto businesses. In this paradigm, workers now have two distinct responsibilities: to do their work and to find more work. Although this may seem more complicated, Dr. Austin makes the case that gig work offers far more autonomy and freedom than employment.

With entire sectors of our economy switching over to gig mode, it’s critical that you adapt now before you find yourself priced out of employment and unable to win a gig.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done, America’s #1 authority in dissertation completion for working professionals.

Founded by Dr. Russell Strickland, Dissertation Done serves people in two ways:

  1. If you’re struggling with your dissertation, getting ready to start your dissertation, or just plain wanting to get your dissertation done as soon as possible, go to and Let’s Get Your Dissertation Done
  2. If you’re busy living your Unconventional Life and have a message that you want to share, maybe you should join our Expand Your Authority Program to become a published author. Go to and let me know that you’d like to talk about Expanding Your Authority.

Visit to learn more about our other services and leave a message or call them at 888-80-DR-NOW (888-803-7669) to schedule your free 30 to 45-minute phone consultation.

Episode Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript is here for your reading convenience. It was created by machines and may (a-hem) contain some errors. If you email us about these errors, the machines will undoubtedly find out. I hope they won’t get angry.


Intro [00:00:03] Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy one percent out there who earned their doctoral degrees and then went on to use them in crazy, cool, unique, and unconventional ways. Here’s your host, astrophysicist turned teacher, author, dissertation coach, and more, Dr. Russell Strickland.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:00:28] Hello and welcome to an Unconventional Life Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done and Expand Your Authority. I have with me today Dr. Charles Austin, who’s an expert in self marketing for the gig economy. He’s worked with private clients around the world and taught courses for a Los Angeles Pierce College since 2017. His most recent book is 101 Ways to Find Work and Keep Finding Work for the Rest of your career. He’s a TEDx speaker. I’m just really excited to talk with Dr. Austin today. Welcome.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:01:03] Thank you so much. Good. Good to be here. Thanks for inviting me.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:01:06] You’re quite welcome. I’d like to let everyone know that today’s episode is being brought to you by Dissertation Done and at Dissertation Done, we help adult doctoral students through the dissertation process. So if you are feeling slowed, stuck, or stalled out in the dissertation, reach out to us at And we’ll see if we can’t help you to Fast-Track Your Dissertation, get it done in less time than you thought possible. And if perhaps you would like to be an expert and work with private clients around the world, there’s no better way to do that than to not only have the first name doctor, but also be a published author. To have literally written the book on your area of expertise is an amazing calling card. And we help you do that through our Expand Your Authority program. You can find out more by reaching out to us at So, again, Dr. Austin, welcome. How are you today?


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:01:56] I’m very, very well, thank you. How are you, Doctor?


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:01:59] All right. So one of the things I’d like to to to ask first is it’s an unusual choice to pursue a doctoral degree. Only about one percent of the folks out there in the population have them. And so we’re the weird ones, in a sense. What was it that that inspired you to decide to pursue your doctoral degree?


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:02:18] Couple of things. I would say. First of all, I wanted the intellectual stimulation, and the second reason was credibility, the things I wanted to do in my career. I needed the doctorate to expand the playing field as sort of a passport to people who would not talk to me or take me as seriously without the doctorate.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:02:43] Absolutely. You know, I was reading some years ago that of all people, Shaquille O’Neal said the exact same thing. He actually earned his Ed.D. some years ago because he said that as he reached the end of his playing career, he knew he’s going to get into more business ventures. And he wanted to be taken seriously in that realm. And you would think it’s celebrity and status and domination in the NBA had anything to do with business. You would be set. But even he decided know I like that credibility as well. It’s really amazing, that connection. So you made that decision to to move into a doctoral degree. Where did that come in your career? At what point in your life did you do that?


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:03:31] I was I would say about 10 years into my current career and I had a vision of what I wanted my work to become and how I wanted it to impact people. And I knew I needed that extra push that the doctoral degree would give me to exactly to be taken seriously. So it was time to get to that next level.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:03:55] Yeah, it certainly opens a lot of doors. I don’t know how many folks I’ve talked to that have just told me about the amazing things that they were doing that they never planned to do while they were in school. You had a plan, but a lot of folks, they’re just going through and they think they’re going this way and then all of these other opportunities open up.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:04:13] So I wanted to write a book, too, and I did that deliberately. I wanted the book to say Dr. Charles Michael Austin. So first the degree and then the book, because I knew I would be taken more seriously. And I have been no question.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:04:29] Yeah. And that’s exactly the way we work with some of our former students and other folks as well. Get that first name Doctor, and then put that on the on the book jacket, because like I said, first name Doctor, and you literally wrote the book on your area of expertise. I mean, who else is going to compete with you?


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:04:46] That’s and that’s the point of the doctor. And as far as I’m concerned, is that you become the go to person, the expert in that field. That’s who people call on. That’s what people call they call on you to do podcasts and radio interviews and speaking at conferences and keynote and so on because they were taking you just taken much more seriously.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:05:07] Yeah, 100 percent. Well, listen, when you decided when you made that decision, you’re very well aligned with my philosophy about fast tracking your dissertation. That’s my book. In fact, it’s called Fast-Track Your Dissertation. And that’s our goal with our students. I view it as there are two different types of doctoral students just for this for purposes of this discussion. There’s traditional who go from high school to college to graduate school. They want to be research professors and they’re doing this as a 20 something year old kid without all the responsibilities that adults have, like mortgages and families and, you know, church and civic commitments and all the other things. Then we’ve got the unconventional group which has all of those adult responsibilities, and they’re usually doing this while juggling their career as well. And so that’s the exact same scenario you were in. You had a plan for getting through your dissertation and your doctoral degree program in general when you started. How did that go when you got into the your doctoral program, how did it go initially with the classes?


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:06:12] I just had a vision and I was willing to push through some of the required courses that frankly I felt I could teach, not be a student in and actually went to my department chair and said, look, some of these courses I really could teach, I would like independent study. And they said we’ve never done that before. I said, well, you’re going to start with me. And they did, in fact, give me independent study. This was a tool, as any degree is, to get me into things that I wanted to do in my career. So I made it work for me, I guess. What are the unusual things about my story is from the moment I started until I finished the dissertation three and a half years, I was I was on turbo charge. This was going to happen. And what was really an advantage for me, which I didn’t know going in, was because I was older, I was a better student. I could not have done this when I was younger because I was distracted. But I but in this case, doing at the age I did it, I was so focused that I managed to finish it that quickly because I have things to do. I need this degree. I need the credibility. Yes. And then I can go and write the book and do two books now and do all the things I wanted to do, one of which was teach at the university level. And they wouldn’t talk to me with just a master’s degree, even though I’d been a professor for ten years, over 10 years, but with a doctorate. Suddenly I started to teach at the university level. I taught at Loyola Marymount University, Chapman University. That opened things up for me in a way that would not have happened before and didn’t.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:07:54] Absolutely. So that’s the record pace. I mean, I have to look back and see about how long I think I did something similar. But I have to go and do the math now. But in going through at that pace, were there any challenges along the way? Were there? Obviously, you mentioned the independent study and dealing with the administration so that you could tailor a degree to yourself. But were there any points where you felt slowed down or stuck for any reason?


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:08:20] in the in the opening page, one of the opening pages, the dedication page on the on the dissertation. And so the hard part was the typing, not the writing. What what slowed me down was after I passed my second defense and then I had to do all the paperwork I, R.B., all that stuff. And I actually hired I got my doctorate from Pepperdine University out here in Malibu, California. I actually hired an editor who had worked at Pepperdine to handle all this stuff because I was never going to be good at the margins. And that’s my expertise is is the content. But I needed that best eight hundred dollars I ever spent because she worked with the people at Pepperdine and the IRB to to make sure that everything was according to the way it should be. That made me a little crazy at the end. Was it? It’s like, congratulations, I finished. I did my second defense. Congratulations, Doctor, that it was another nine months of paperwork. And it was I mean, is this ever going to finish? And it finally. It did, yeah. So that that was the hold up after I was after they said you’re a doctor now the hard part for me began, which was, which was all the formatting and all that, all that craziness. But it got done.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:09:44] Absolutely. And you bring up a very, very important point. So many doctoral students that I encounter think that they have to do it all themselves. They they think that being heroic is like Atlas holding the world on his shoulder. And I think being heroic is being able to figure out the quickest and easiest way to get there because you’re going to get the same credit and the same degree, whether you torture yourself or make it easy along the way.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:10:08] What am I mantras now is you don’t need the answers. You need the resources.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:10:13] Absolutely. One of my mentors calls that the the who, not the how.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:10:18] And I think it’s collaborative. There’s certain areas I’m strong in. So I will farm it out to this wonderful editor or editor who did the stuff I couldn’t do, didn’t want to do. I suppose I could have done it if I taken another three or four years, but I wasn’t willing to spend more time on this. So it was I was happy to pay her and she was wonderful. And I refer to someone else, a colleague of mine, who later did a dissertation and she said she was wonderful, too. So, yeah, it’s a it’s a team effort and you need to learn to be collaborative with other people. And I know what my strengths are. I know where my strengths are not OK. And then I have people to help me, including the dissertation, including I suppose I could do my own taxes, but I have a tax person that does it that right. Because because I don’t want to ramp up for ten years to figure out and get. How to do it and get to the point she’s at?


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:11:14] Yeah, the folks in Congress don’t know how to do their own taxes. None of them have read the tax code. Yeah. Account for right thing.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:11:21] Yeah, it’s the point was not to the point was to get it done. And anybody who can help me do that, I enrolled and it got done.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:11:35] And some people will ask, what about ethics in academia? Clearly, you’re not talking about someone doing the writing for you and pulling together your information, it’s still your dissertation. But what we’re looking at here is the ancillary help. All universities that I’m aware of, say, hire an editor. It’s fine. You don’t have to develop that skill set, that skill set. We’re testing whether you are good at education, not at editing, and you hire someone to help with you, with your data analysis. And we help people with sort of project management just staying on track. And what do I do next and how do I keep going? Accountability and that sort of thing.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:12:11] I had a I had a coach and a mentor, someone with a doctorate from Columbia University. And I what you do with a coach is you shut up and listen. You don’t vote. You say, yes, ma’am. And you follow the simple instructions because she’s been there before. I couldn’t I I did the heavy lifting. But some of this stuff is in my area of expertise. I’m not going to pretend I’m a I’m a great editor on dissertations. Ah, yeah. Thank goodness she was there and I was smart enough to hire her and she did that area and so I could get it done. The point was ultimately the content and how I could bring that to the world once I had that doctorate. So whatever help I could get, I took and I looked for because there was there was an ultimate goal here.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:13:01] And I think that makes so much sense. And I’ll tell people, you know, I as a dissertation coach, I don’t want to sound self-serving and say you have to come and get my help. There’s a lot of places you can go and you don’t have to pay for that help. You find people who have been through the process before. You might be willing to answer some questions, sit with you and and talk to you, advise you. There are all sorts of ways to do this. I personally believe that hiring a coach is one of the best ways to do it, but there are lots of ways of doing it. But it is important that you get someone in your circle who’s been there and done that before because the dissertation is not a natural thing. Nobody, you know, comes out of the womb and learns how to crawl, walk and then write a dissertation. You’ve got to talk to people and you got to figure some things out to make that happen.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:13:43] It’s everything in life is about collaboration. And and it’s really important to reach out to other people who exactly, as you said, have done it before. So you realize you’re not alone. Oh, I thought it was me. No, it’s not you. Another twenty thousand people have gone through exactly the same process. OK, relax, we’ll get it handled as a team. So you assemble a team to help you out because it is you’re right. It’s a very unnatural sort of thing to do. But the the a lot of the content in my dissertation went into my first book. So it was multipurpose.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:14:20] Yes, absolutely. Well, that’s the transition. Let’s talk about the book, because this idea of self marketing economy, I think it’s fascinating. I think so many folks in our audience that is going to hit them pretty square because they’re either going to want to be, you know, coach or consultants or something like that. And one way or the other, that is effectively putting them in the gig economy.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:14:42] Yeah, which is the way it’s going. And statistics are showing that more than 50 percent of the working force in this country will be freelancers in another six years. I know you have to be prepared for that. And and what I do is shift people’s thinking the way the way I call it. It’s a shift in consciousness without the use of drugs. It’s a new way. It’s a new way to think about the working world and getting people past the 20th century and the whole idea that, you know, if I get a degree, whatever it is, and I work hard and I’m a loyal worker, I’ll have work for forty years. No, that was your grandparents. OK, the work like that anymore, there’s corporate loyalty has gone. I don’t care for the most part. I don’t care how hard you work, if they can find a cheaper way to do it, you’re out there. Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out. Thank you for your loyal service. But we found a robot to do it or someone in another country who works for half the money or someone half your age who works for half the money. Sorry. So I’ve worked with so many people who are particularly baby boomers who are just gobsmacked. I did everything I was supposed to. I deserve a job. Yeah, I was a vice president. I have all these accomplishments. I made all this money for my company and now I can’t even get an interview. It’s because you’re too old and too expensive. And at a certain point, the sooner the better. You have to start to look at yourself as a brand and a business and stop looking for a job so much and look more for work, short term gig jobs or gigs, project work and you build a business that way, based on your expertise.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:16:38] I know I had an experience gosh, how long ago was it now, 20? Almost twenty years ago. I had a good job. It actually moved from Chicago halfway across the country to work with this company. And then some things happened at the corporate level that was a subsidiary. And they got sort of absorbed in a few things happen. And then one day some I walked into my office is like, yeah, you’re not working here anymore. And I went from making good money to no money in five minutes, and that was the point at which I decided no one’s going to have that kind of control over me again. And I haven’t gone back to the corporate kind of existence since.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:17:13] I personally backed into being an entrepreneur. As I say, I have an addiction to eating. I’m too old and too expensive. No one’s going to hire me. And at this point in my life, I don’t particularly want to report to a boss. I want to report to this boss or I had an account years ago. I said, you’re your own boss. You should said, I have 50 clients. I have 50 bosses. So in a sense, you can look at it that way. But so two things are required. What is your hustling all the time for work? Well, and the other is you’ve got to you’ve got to stay sane and kind of get used to this and enjoy the freedom it brings that you can sit in your jammies and and do work for clients. And they don’t care how hard you work, they care. Did you deliver on time? And if you do the job well, they’ll hire you again and they will also refer you for work and you actually build a business. The difference is my approach. You have multiple income streams. So if one client drops out, you still got money coming in. The old approach, which is if you look at it, your boss or your company, you work for it. That’s one client. If they go away, you’re on the unemployment line. Oh, my God, what do I do now? I went from this much money to. Nothing. I don’t want to be I don’t want people to be in that situation, so they have to plan for it.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:18:42] The what if someone was going to, you know, is thinking about planning for I know some folks that are thinking about this sort of thing for retirement, whatever the situation is. What would you advise was the first step to to beginning this process?


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:18:56] To to plan on retiring?


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:18:59] Just to get into this gig economy. What was the first step? Maybe you have a job, maybe you’re going to be retiring soon, or maybe you’re just thinking about leaving that job. But you need to figure out how you’re going to make that transition to doing something else useful for your for yourself and the economy and your bank account.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:19:16] Just to quickly speak about retirement, I had a friend who said I plan to retire five years after I die.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:19:22] That might be too late, but I get the point.


Dr. Chaz Austin [00:19:25] It’s what I do with my clients is we have to in order to define or articulate and sell your brand. And people have no concept of the first of all, that they were brand what they are like Apple or Microsoft or Coca-Cola, your brand. So I have to really shift their consciousness about and I use a SWOT analysis which is used for business, but my assertion is that people are now their own business as Brown. OK, so what are your strengths? And the strengths are not general like I work hard and I’m a good team player and I don’t know what are the strengths you have that people in your industry will pay for or people in the new industry you want to enter would pay for? What are the transferable skills? OK, that’s what we’re selling out of that. We develop sound bite, a LinkedIn profile really to a resume or if we’re going to go off on your own instead of a resume, the resume becomes the foundation for a bio, which you now post on your website, which you may need, particularly if you’re working internationally. Yes. And then it’s practicing the sound and how to interview and so on so that you can articulate the message. And then the third part is to sell it. And that’s where the big resistance comes in. I don’t want to sell. I shouldn’t have to sell. Sorry, everybody’s in sales. Now, when you have a business, you’re always selling, so you have to focus on your target audience. Who are the people who, given your skill set and experience, would say, oh, we could use you? You’re not looking for fans. I have over thirty thousand followers on LinkedIn so that I’m not interested in being the most popular boy in my high school class. OK, it’s about business. Yes, it’s about people who will for whom your skill set will resonate. And they will say, not only am I impressed, but we want to hire you now and you need to be open to it. Short term work, probably. It’s not going to be it’s not going to be what your grandma grandpa had. Grandma had where it’s you have a long term job forever, OK? It’s short term. You need to think in a different way. So that’s the process I go through with my clients to get them into the mindset that this is the new reality. And I always caution them. You’re probably not going to like having to do this. Sorry, I’m not interested in your liking the process. I’m interested in you’re making money and continuing to make money that relates to something you’re really good at and enjoy doing

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.