by: Ron Carucci – FORBES
These days, most professionals understand the precarious nature of relying exclusively on employers to develop and advance their careers. While some companies have invested in career development efforts,professionals are, for the most part, on their own when it comes to cultivating their future earning potential. But the day-to-day grind of existing jobs leaves little time to explore bigger horizons, test new opportunities and broaden our skill and experience base.
I spoke with Dorie Clark, author of the forthcoming Entrepreneurial You: Monetize your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive about the importance of every professional’s need to consider a portfolio career in order to take greater control over his or her economic and occupational destiny. In this two-part series, I’ll explore with Clark the many lessons for professionals and leaders that can be gained from great entrepreneurial action.
“We’re taught to diversify our financial risk by spreading our investments over multiple stocks and funds,” says Clark. “Mitigating professional risk is no different. I was laid off as a journalist the day before 9/11 and quickly learned the importance of not relying solely on one employer for my livelihood.” Clark’s career in the ensuing 16 years has blossomed into a multi-income stream portfolio that includes coaching and consulting, writing and speaking, and online learning offerings.“Every professional, whether they aspire to be a self-employed entrepreneur or not, can learn from entrepreneurial experiences to broaden their career and maximize their earning potential,” she says,
Here are three reasons why you should develop your own portfolio career:
A safe place to broaden your skill set. The intensity of most jobs produces an ever-deepening, but narrow, skill set that refines your ability to do that job. But that same intensity makes widening your skill set for future opportunities nearly impossible. Says Clark, “While many companies say they value learning from failure, that’s not usually the truth. They’re paying people to execute things they need done well. So there’s not usually much opportunity to try things you lack competence in, and invest the time to gain that competence.” Clark recommends using nights and weekends to venture out and explore other interests. Pick a skill set – maybe its writing, public speaking, or some new technology – that you could nurture. Outside the mainstream of your workplace is a safer and lower-risk place to cultivate new skills . And once you master them, you can bring them into your day job, potentially generating new opportunity. Clarks says, “I interviewed Lenny Achan for my book, who began his career as a nurse and rose to the position of administrator. But his career took off when his boss learned he’d learned to develop an app in his spare time. His boss admired his initiative, and he was promoted to run all social media, and eventually all communications, for the hospital.”
The opportunity to widen your experience and perspective. The natural byproduct of doing one job well over time is that your world view actually narrows. You become biased to view things through the lens of your work. For example, financial professionals often see the world through an economic lens. Marketing professionals often see the world through a consumer lens. And those biases become so natural that you rarely feel prompted to test them. Says Clark, “Most leaders, especially in corporate jobs, create strategies and put them in motion with the assumption they will just work as intended. They set them in motion like cruise liners, and often send them right into the iceberg. Great entrepreneurs know they have to test and refine their hypotheses. And they do this naturally through a wide range of experiences.” This is especially important when planning your career. You can make great use of your organization for this. What are the roles and experiences outside your department you find interesting? Make a point to spend time with, even interview, professionals in your organization in other disciplines. This will naturally refine your hypothesis about the value of your current job and how it contributes to the organization. Consider asking your boss for rotational assignments to spend time shadowing people in roles you find especially interesting. Besides building your internal network, you will learn a great deal about other professional fields, better understand how your existing role contributes within the broader company, and expand your menu of options for the future.
The chance to raise your income and earning potential. Says Clark, “ Whether we work for ourselves or someone else, we all need to find ways to diversify our income to hedge against uncertainty, broaden our impact, and earn more.” While most of today’s professionals aren’t motivated exclusively by money, those with aspirations to buy a home, support a family, or retire at a reasonable age, are focused on their earning potential. Clark’s book is chock full of examples of hard-working professionals with the ambition and courage to try something new – putting in the hard work and having it pay off. Many are now earning well into the six and seven figure income bracket. She cites such examples as Bjork and Lindsey Ostram, a Minnesota couple whose food blog, Pinch of Yum, regularly earns them more than $50,000 a month through advertisements, e-book sales, and sponsored posts. Or John Lee Dumas, the former military veteran turned daily podcaster, and one of iTunes award winner podcasts, Entrepreneur on Fire, transparently publishes his income report to his followers. Since December, 2013, he’s grossed at least six figures per month. Relying on the possibility of annual raises in our current job, along with an occasional promotion to a higher pay band, may increase our income and earning potential, taking our current income up anywhere between 3-8%. But if you have aspirations for greater financial freedom, that alone may not suffice. Considering a side gig, or the opportunity to venture into something that is location-independent, leveraging the online marketplace with some product or service for which you develop passion and acumen, could well take you to income levels you’ve only dreamed about.
No one would argue that today’s career landscape will continue to regularly be disrupted. The question all professionals need to answer is, “Do I want to take advantage of that turbulence, or be crushed by it?” If you want to thrive in it, maximizing your hard-won expertise and what you can earn for it, consider branching out into a portfolio career where both your impact and income have the opportunity to soar.