How to find brief, interesting jobs that offer cash and opportunities to meet new people.
Here’s how I spent my summer vacation:
Participated in a clinical trial for a vaccine against a respiratory virus for people over 65.
Spent a couple of hours having my motions “captured” for an artificial intelligence project.
Took part in three different micro-gesture studies with sensors on my hands being tracked on computers as I followed on-screen instructions.
Brought my dog to a warehouse in South Seattle, where a camera followed both of us as we moved around a room. She sniffed and scampered and played with a toy that quickly became her favorite. Fortunately, she was allowed to take it home.
Had my blood drawn for a cancer research project.
Joined a mock jury to provide feedback on legal arguments in a civil suit against a contractor.
Participated in a smartphone app study from a Texas university.
Joined a consumer panel that pays for opinions on everything from TV shows to mobile banking.
Recorded candidate speeches at a political picnic (and heard them in ads for the opposing candidate two weeks later!)
Here’s how much “pin money” I made: $600, plus two Amazon gift cards worth $100 each!
Not bad for a mostly retired senior, said my upstairs neighbor Kristi, who turned me on to my favorite new activity—checking out the gigs on Craigslist and finding brief, interesting jobs that offer not only cash but opportunities to meet new people, connect with a (mostly) younger crowd of techno wizards, and expand my world. Kristi scours the site daily for jobs that often involve more standing around than I’m comfortable doing. She checks vaccination cards at events that require them, drives around the Sound to count pallets at Costco, waters plants regularly for people who are on vacation, takes tickets at sporting events, and signs up for studies aimed at people who are slightly younger than me, which she is. We both take a lot of “screeners,” which weed out certain demographics, but when one of us qualifies, we usually refer the other, which adds a sum to the credit cards they use to pay us.
The last thing I do at night is check the newest items on the gig list. I ignore the ones for delivery drivers, warehouse helpers and day laborers, depression and migraine studies, and egg donors, but there’s usually a new project that I qualify for. I don’t answer any postings that require me to show up alone at any place that’s obviously not a legitimate business or event or office building. My rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and scams are unfortunately prevalent.
Last month I answered an interesting request from a man seeking someone to accompany him to an art auction, dinner, and dancing. He posted a picture of a man in his 70’s or so, but didn’t request one of me, which I thought was gentlemanly. We had a couple of email exchanges, and I dusted off my dancing shoes, but he might have been put off by my self-description as a “woman of a certain age,” since he didn’t contact me after that.
On a day when there’s too much white space on my calendar and too little pin money in my checking account, www.craigslist.com/seattlegigs is the place to be.
Jane Adams, PhD, is a writer, coach, and social psychologist. She is the author of 12 books, including When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us, and a contributing writer for Psychology Today.