This Protagion post focuses on a TEDx talk given by Dorie Clark at an event titled “Professions of the Future” in Switzerland in September 2017. The talk explores portfolio careers, a topic we briefly touched on in a previous Halloween-themed post about slashers: people who do different concurrent jobs.
Dorie herself has “consciously and deliberately worked to cultivate multiple income streams”. The New York Times describes her as an “expert at self-reinvention”, and her roles include:
Through that process [of building a portfolio career], it’s done a lot of things: it’s brought in more revenue for me, it’s mitigated my risk, it’s introduced me to new people and new experiences, it’s helped me develop new skills. And it’s my hope for you, whether you work for yourself, or if you have a day job that you love and want to keep, that if you cultivate a portfolio career, that it could do the same for you.”
Her talks often use personal stories of people she’s interviewed to illustrate her suggestions, which makes them relatable and easier to remember. Read more to view the video, some takeaways, and additional insights from Dorie.
This talk begins with Dorie describing her own experience of being retrenched. On 10th September 2001, she was laid off from her journalism job as a newspaper reporter in Boston, spurring her to action: “…I was never going to let myself become that vulnerable, in such a precarious position again… These days I earn money in a variety of different ways: I write books, I’m a professor, I speak, I consult.”
She shares five tips to prepare ourselves to future-proof our careers:
1) Take the Initiative – she illustrates this suggestion with a story of a nurse who became a hospital’s Communications Director because he followed his passion for technology and innovation by developing apps outside of work.
When you are willing to invest in yourself and your continued learning, you can push your career into places you never would have even thought possible”
2) Apply What You’ve Learned – Dorie tells a story of using learnings from one failed entrepreneurial venture to improve on the next one, and to reinvest this additional knowledge into your employer too: “An intrapreneur brings the knowledge and learnings from outside side ventures back into their company and that makes them even more successful and more valuable”.
3) Ask for What You Want – Dorie’s next vignette also centres on turning a passion into a new career by going after what you want. She describes how an aspiring chef wrote personal letters to the top chefs in her city rather than merely applying for advertised roles, and how this ultimately led to her owning three bakeries and a restaurant.
4) Focus on the Small Wins – this personal story underscores the importance of savouring successes which helps boost your energy to keep going.
5) Rethink the Impossible – her fifth illustration about sponsorship income from podcasts shows how challenging implicit assumptions can prompt new opportunities and help us to future-proof our careers.
Cultivating a portfolio career has a number of benefits:
Additional insights from Dorie
Warning about the dangers of relying on one income stream, Dorie has said: “It is rather perilous… whether that is just a day job, or even if you're self-employed, doing one type of thing for your clients. If you really want to be able to mitigate risk, and also dramatically increase your ability to earn more money, seeking out proactively multiple income streams and how to strategically develop that for your business can be transformative. And if you do it the right way, each way that you earn money actually helps you earn even more money because it brings in new clients who want different things from you at different price points. It enables you to reach larger and larger audiences who might create essentially cross-selling and cross-promotional opportunities.”
To build additional income streams, Dorie suggests offering different things to an existing or similar audience, rather than appealing to a totally different market. She also advises nurturing an entrepreneurial side venture while you have a day job: “Incubate it. Test it. And then, only then when you have validation that it is going well, that you can pursue it and start to spend more time on it… It really de-risks the enterprise. You're able to make a lot of mistakes where it's not going to cripple you. Because you have your job to fall back on.”
And, to end off, a rallying cry from a Finding Brave podcast conversation between Dorie and Kathy Caprino about how corporations “desperately” want us to shape our future careers. “[My corporate speaking clients say:] We really want our employees to take control of their careers. So many employees are just waiting for something to happen. They're waiting to be promoted. They're waiting for the next thing. And it's not necessarily as clear as it used to be. We want the employees to say, ‘Hey, here's where I'm aiming. Here's where I want to go. What are the skills that I need to develop to get there? What are the assignments that I need in between now and then to be able to get to be an SVP or whatever it is?’ We want them to do it.”
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