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Author: Don't Like Your Job? Branch Out

In her new book Get A Life, Not A Job: Do What You Love and Let Your Talents Work for You (FT Press) Paula Caligiuri recommends that we rethink our careers with a contrarian but ultimately common sense approach: If your job isn’t giving what you want, find three of them. Women For Hire talked to her.

1) In your new book you say if one job isn’t satisfying, find three of them. Why?

I believe there is a better approach to achieve greater job security and career fulfillment — but it requires a change in one’s relationship with work, away from the single employer mentality. A job, as traditionally characterized by a 40-hour/week employment situation, takes the control from you and gives it fully to an employer.

I strongly advocate a more self-directed approach where passions and talents are configured into multiple income streams or career acts. Just as the riskiest financial investment strategy is to have all of your money in one place, the riskiest career management strategy is to have all of your income from one employer.

2) Is there a magic number of careers one should have?

Everyone is different. For some people, one secure and fulfilling income stream is fine, especially if you are an entrepreneur or are in a very critical role (and possess unique skills) working for an employer. If you do not fall into either of these categories, however, I would recommend thinking about how to leverage your talents or passions into other income streams.

3) What kind of professions or jobs work best here?

Most often when people think if multiple roles, they think of artists, musicians, writers, or other creative professionals. While more common among this group, some of the best examples of people with fulfilling multiple career acts are from fields as diverse as business and science.

Examples of career acts include an eBay business, part-time job in a desired industry, profitable hobby, non-executive board seat, franchise, authored book, affiliate links on your blog, weekend jazz trio, owner of rental properties, etc. The possibilities are endless but all rooted in what a person enjoys doing, her talents and the way she likes to work.

4) What kind of personalities are best-suited for merged vocations?

The most common characteristics among people with fulfilling multiple career acts are high-energy, a healthy self-awareness, and optimism. They tend to have a strong passion or talent that they have configured into multiple income streams.

The most common way to generate additional income streams is through entrepreneurship which, we know, requires some tenacity, confidence and comfort with risk. We also know that entrepreneurship is not right for everyone.

5) What you’re really talking about here is so-called “gigging,” right, where people take on multiple gigs or jobs to survive? Do you predict more of this in the future? If yes, why?

The idea of career acts is that people leverage their talents to start generating additional income doing things they truly love. I don’t want people to work multiple jobs they dislike. Of course, there are cases when multiple jobs are necessary to survive (as you said) but I view this as a starting point. Great careers are an active process. Too many people become passive once they land a job, becoming active again when that job is at risk.

Yes, I do predict that in the future there will be fewer people in traditional 40-hour per week, single employer jobs and more people with multiple sources of income. In part, this trend will occur as the result of the change toward a more strategic approach to managing human resources.

Competitive and cost pressures make flexible employment relationships highly attractive. These employees are less expensive. Companies can fill less critical roles with greater financial flexibility and can fill higher skill roles where the skills are only needed for a short period of time.

Consider that fact that in the second half of 2009 (at the height of increasing unemployment) there were about 117,000 temporary jobs added. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently predicted that employment services will be among the fastest-growing employer segment in our country, signaling this increase in the contingent or flexible workforce.

6) In your book, you argue that following more than one passion/having more than one career act at a time can give a worker more, not less, job security. Why?

Whenever you have several real options for income sources, you have greater security. If one source of income is lost you’ll still have the cushion of other sources to keep supporting you during tough times like today. Too many people wait until they lose their entire single income source to think about other sources of income.

7) What does this mean for most people?

It is good advice for us to think about our careers as our #1 asset and manage them beyond a single 9 to 5 job. Keep in mind that we can own our careers but not our jobs (unless we are self-employed), as employers own the work and will configure competencies to remain competitive.

Great performance reviews are necessary but no longer sufficient for job security. Professional stability and financial security will come from overall careers, not any given job. Professional fulfillment and satisfaction will come from the career you build not the job promotions you receive.

Caligiuri is a human resource management professor at Rutgers University where she has directed the Center for HR Strategy since 2001. She is a popular work-life harmony and career fulfillment blogger.

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