One aspect of career resilience it's important for us to keep in mind is the need to have multiple options. This is particularly true when it comes to our finances, where we need to be far more entrepreneurial than we've been in the past. It's fine to rely on a single source of income (your job) when that source is very stable. But jobs are anything but stable anymore. In fact, they may be the least stable thing going on right now.
I have been observing for quite some time that most work is getting automated and outsourced, while only complex and creative work remain valued, and therefore wealth-generating for those who do it. The construct of the JOB highlights this problem, because jobs are designed around work that can be copied and workers who can be replaced, but anything that can be reduced to a flowchart will be automated. Relying on the job as society’s main wealth-sharing mechanism is a major mistake in the network era, but one that politicians and many others continue to make. We are entering a post-job economy.
And in Forbes Magazine, Dave Maney makes a compelling case for the death of jobs.
Imagine for a moment that you’re a company and you’re going to an imaginary store to buy labor solutions for tasks you need done. If it’s 1980, there’s pretty much one item on the shelves, albeit in two different sizes. The boxes are labeled “employee”, and there’s a big box (full-time) and a small box (part-time). You need something done that needs any amount of supervision and interaction – those are pretty much your choices.
Now stroll into the labor solutions store today. You’ll immediately notice an astonishing array of choices on the shelves: Full-time and part-time employees are still there, to be sure, but now they are joined by outsourcing, crowdsourcing, freelancing, social media methodologies, software automation…and more, and all in a million different permutations and varieties.
Collaboration has become increasingly frictionless, meaning increasingly costless. As a result, the one thing that is absolutely certain about the store’s inventory of labor solutions: The largest, most unwieldy, most expensive, most regulated, riskiest, and least flexible box in the entire place is, without question, the full-time job box.
In an era of economic flux and uncertainty, what box is going to be favored? The big box might sell, but only under a set of very particular circumstances. Sane companies will buy every other box first – and they have been, and it’s showing up in our economic statistics month after month after month.
I agree wholeheartedly with this analysis and it's something I've been blogging about for awhile. Putting all your eggs into one basket (your job) is a recipe for career rigidity and financial problems in the future.
The resilient careerist will recognize this new reality and start working now to diversify possibilities for him/herself. I suggest taking a lesson from the solo entrepreneurs among us--those of us who have been managing multiple streams for awhile in order to make ends meet.
Learning From Solo Entrepreneurs
In a recent post entitled The Right Mix of Income is Your Safety Net, Kivi Leroux Miller, one of my favorite nonprofit business people, does a nice job of laying out how she manages muliple income streams within her small business. When her business was new, it looked like this:
- Steady Clients – I had two clients that I worked for nearly every month.
- Intermittent Clients – I had several clients who gave me a few projects per year.
- Magazine Articles – I wrote articles for trade magazines.
- Online Courses – I taught several online courses through my websites (business writing and writing nonprofit annual reports, at the time).
- Tip Sheets – I sold tip sheets on various writing topics through my websites.
- In-person Workshops – I taught workshops through the Duke University Certificate Program in Nonprofit Management.
- Advertising Revenue – I ran Google AdSense ads on most of my websites.
- Affiliate/Reseller Revenue – I ran ads for affiliate program products on most of my websites.
As it has evolved, the mix has now shifted into this:
- Webinar Series and E-Clinics– I offer a weekly webinar series with a subscription fee at Nonprofit Marketing Guide, and also teach webinars almost weekly at CharityHowTo. We also offer more in-depth online training via two-week e-clinics.
- Mentoring Program — I offer a six-month group Mentoring Program for nonprofit communications directors.
- Coaching Clients — I work with three clients currently, helping them work through marketing challenges and develop their marketing teams.
- Public Speaking — I present more than a dozen workshops and keynotes each year, and am paid for almost all of them.
- Book Royalties — I get checks twice a year from my publisher.
- E-Books — We sell a few e-books online.
Kivi's mix is based on her particular interests, passions, skills and the changing needs of her clients. But it's still an instructive combination of products and services that can be an effective jumping off point for your own planning.
Your Path to Diversification
If you're currently working, think of your job as your own version of Kivi's "Steady Clients." This gives you a baseline source from which you can build out your other options.
Then look to your passions and skills to find other potential revenue streams. Are there skills you use at work that you might also use with customers? Don't forget your hobbies and other interests when thinking about sources of income. Are you a fantasic cook or an artist in your spare time? Maybe you can turn these hobbies into paying opportunities.
As you develop ideas for side gigs and potential products, don't make the mistake of assuming that they must bring in huge amounts of money. You're looking for diversification. Some strategies will be more financially lucrative than others, but all can combine to create a safety net for you.
Also, I've found it's a good idea to be methodical about this. Lay out all your possibilities and then start prioritizing. Which of these options do you have the will and resources to work on now? Which are opportunities for the future?
If your job is particularly demanding, you may want to focus on finding passive income sources where you create a product to sell and then focus on marketing and selling it. E-books and online tutorials are examples of this kind of passive income opportunity.
Eventually, your side gigs may become your full-time work. This is how I've developed in my own career and I know it's how Rosetta Thurman's career has evolved too. It may also be that you continue to work at a job, while also doing things on the side.
The point is that your career becomes more resilient when you weave for yourself a safety net of multiple income streams and opportunities so that you are less dependent on a single job or client.
I've found that there's an added benefit to this approach that allows you to further develop your skills and talents in ways that best meet your own, individual career needs. By diversifying your career portfolio, you develop new capacities and new connections, building your career resilience.
While I know that it's tempting to see your job as your single source of financial and career salvation, I promise you that this will eventually be a problem. Resilience is about diversity and one of your greatest opportunities for resilience lies in diversifying your sources of revenue.
You must be an entrepreneur when it comes to your career, so start thinking now about how you can build new possibilities for yourself.