The rapid, unparalleled change in economies, work and home environments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in global career shock, jolting millions out of their jobs and countless others out of their comfort zones.
Increasingly people are realizing that there is not much stability within the structures they once explicitly and unquestioningly trusted. On top of this, many are questioning their values and purpose, wanting to pursue work that has meaning and impact, and which drives satisfaction. Others are bracing and doing the best they can to prepare for the pandemic’s impact on their industries as its effects continue to unfold throughout 2020 and beyond.
With these shifts have come a total rethink of careers and renewed interest in portfolio careers. According to Anastasia Belyh, co-founder of cleverism.com, “The digitalization of process, globalization, change in leadership styles, increasingly more work from home, and increased employment uncertainty, require that professionals see the new work as what it is… a necessity to grow additional income streams.” She adds that “This may come in the form of starting a side business, becoming a freelancer, or productizing knowledge into online courses, as well as being prepared to switch from being employed to being self-employed.”
For those contemplating a portfolio career or working on a “side hustle,” here is what to consider and how to get started.
Be prepared to sacrifice
According to Pamela Slim, award-winning author, speaker and business coach and small business strategist, people make career changes primarily for two reasons – either by choice or because they are forced to.
With opportunities dwindling or merely disappearing in 2020 and a renewed interest in achieving more optimal work-life balance, building a portfolio career may seem like a viable option. Still, this does not mean doing so makes sense for everyone.
Michael Peres, a software engineer, journalist, radio host and entrepreneur who has built a successful portfolio career, explains that this is by no means better than working a stable 9-5 job with reliable income and benefits at an established company. He adds that doing what it takes to have a successful portfolio career often requires more than most people are willing to give.
His advice? Those considering pursuing a portfolio career should decide what they are willing to give up to build it. Sacrificing one’s social life and solid 8 hours of sleep each night is often par for the course, and in some instances, temporarily moving back home to one’s parents may be what it takes to build a successful new career. He adds, “If you can honestly say, without hesitation, that these things are not a cause for hesitation, then a portfolio career may be a good option.”
Adopt a beginner mindset & get used to living outside the comfort zone
When you have achieved a certain level of success and momentum in a career, it can be difficult and expensive to shift to another. For this reason, Slim advises that those getting started take some time to talk with others who have made significant career moves, especially in the same areas of interest.
These discussions can afford practical insights into precisely what is required to achieve the same and how to plan to do it effectively. Will building a portfolio require a complete pivot, or can it be a slow, calculated transition from a 9-5 with a “side hustle” to consultancy and the same and eventually a full-time career?
Learning from others’ experiences often translates into not having to live through and pay for each lesson personally, both of which can be financially and emotionally taxing.
Slim also believes that a successful transition requires a shift in mindset. “You have to shift mindsets from being an expert to operating with a beginner mind, lest you get frustrated with the amount of time it takes to learn something new, develop expertise, visibility and eventually mastery.”
Finally, Slim recommends getting used to living outside the realms of comfort, “Take tiny steps, and push yourself to put yourself out there a bit more than is comfortable. If you want to accelerate your change, you are going to have to operate differently. Embrace a new way of being and enjoy the process!”
Work on agility
Technology is advancing exponentially, continually driving change in the way companies operate, and people do their jobs. Add to this trajectory, the previously unimaginable ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is shaping global trends. It’s difficult to model and predict how all of this will influence the world’s economies and the workforce.
What is clear is that what is relevant today may not be so in the near future. According to Peres, “Those who fail to recognize that our environment is ever-evolving risk getting caught off-guard.”
Investing time and effort into building a single set of skills is no longer as appealing as it once was. After all, as Peres comments, “You never know when the next pandemic will hit, or if AI will render your job obsolete. And the point here is, you shouldn’t have to.”
For this reason, Peres advises focusing on developing skills that can quickly adjust to any environment. He believes that the best game plan involves developing a multitude of skill sets that are not constrained by variables such as time, location, and that can be applied to a wide array of industries.
With increasing global uncertainty and job insecurity, the remote workplace becoming mainstream and many, either by choice or force, re-evaluating their priorities personally and professionally. Successfully navigating the global landscape, both professionally and financially, is at the forefront of most people’s minds.
While building a portfolio career admittedly requires time, patience, sacrifice, humility and tenacity, it is well within the realms of possibility for those willing to step out of their comfort zones and mold their versions of the “new normal.”