Valuable Diversions – Financial Freedom and Professional Security Through Career Acts

A Side Job. Profitable Hobby. Weekend Rock Band. Under the old rules of employment those with multiple sources of income may have been chastised by a spouse, parent, or nosy mother-in-law for “not having a professional focus” , “not being serious about your job” , “not sticking with it”, and “being too distracted”.

This is a new decade and those days are over.

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 organization- unless you occupy a critical role, possess skills that are difficult to find on the labor market, and work for a company with financial security. There is a small percentage of working adults today in that group – with millions more who want to be a part of it. Heck, I want you to be part of it, enjoying full job security and financial freedom.

I am not advocating for you to add additional dull or stressful career acts. Multiple boring jobs would still result in an unsatisfying career overall (and an anxiety-filled life). You deserve more. I want you to do more of what you love, even if you start small with a profitable hobby, an eBay business, or a side job that starts you in an industry or occupational field you find interesting.

Here are three great reasons why you should consider leveraging your talents to manage your overall career as a portfolio of career acts:

  1. Financial Gain and Security. If you are like most people, your career is your number one asset. And, as any other asset, you’d like to manage it for the maximum return. If you added a second career act (of something you loved doing) that provided an after-tax income of even 12K annually from age 25 through age 50, you would add $300,000 to your lifetime earnings. I know you didn’t need me to do that math, but it is worth the visual – especially when contrasted with the fact that most people have less than $150,000 in their 401Ks upon retirement and the average home is now worth less than $175,000.
  2. Intrinsic Rewards and Fulfillment. The additional benefit (one that neither your house nor your 401K will offer) is that your career can be a source of intrinsic rewards. If you have ever worked on a project you found interesting – really getting into the flow — you know the joy and energy the right career act can give you. While I don’t believe you should work more hours, I do believe you should devote more energy to building desired career acts to achieve greater fulfillment. Career acts also supply a stress-easing sense of security that comes from knowing if one act of your work-life becomes stale or disappears entirely that you have other sources of stimulation and income. Your career becomes more nimble and less stressful as your attention can be redirected positively, for personal and financial gain.
  3. Professional Advancement. Careers are advanced through the acquisition of needed skills and a strong professional network. Multiple career acts can propel a career faster by multiplying the number of skills gained and people in one’s professional network at a faster rate. You don’t need to just believe me though. Published in 2009, researchers from the University of Aberdeen, Drs. Pouliakas, Panos, and Zangelidis, tracked over 5,500 people for almost 15 years, examining their employment patterns. While only 8.5% had a second career, those who did were able to use a second career act to obtain “new skills and expertise and as a stepping stone to a new career”. Many of these people with diverse multiple career acts were able to springboard into entrepreneurial ventures. Having multiple income streams is a very productive way to grow your career.

Having a second or third career act (of something you love to do) makes sense. Have I convinced you yet?

Paula Caligiuri, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Human Resource Management Department at Rutgers University where she has directed the Center for HR Strategy since 2001. As a career expert, Dr. Caligiuri has written Get a Job, Not a Life: Do What You Love and Let Your Talents Work for You (FT Press, 2010) She has been recognized as one of the most prolific authors in the field of international business for her work in global careers, international human resource management, and global leadership development. For human resource management professionals she has also written (with Steven Poelmans) Harmonizing Work, Family, and Personal Life (Cambridge Press, 2008) and (with Dave Lepak and Jaime Bonache) Managing the Global Workforce (Wiley, 2010). Dr. Caligiuri has covered career-related topics for CNN and has hosted a pilot for a television show, CareerWATCH. She holds a Ph.D. from Penn State University in industrial and organizational psychology. Dr. Caligiuri is a popular work-life harmony and career fulfillment blogger: