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3 advantages of diversifying your career from an executive’s point of view

By Dr. Patrick C. Horton

At a glance

  • Career diversification means pursuing multiple roles over the course of your career, sometimes simultaneously as a full-time job and freelance work.
  • Diversification can offer such benefits as additional income, cross-functional skill development and career enhancement opportunities.
  • Learn more business skills with a bachelor’s degree from University of Phoenix!

Keeping things cross-functional

It is said that a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none, but that cliché falls short of the whole truth. When it comes to talents, having several of them may not make you a master of one, but it just might give you options when determining your career path (or paths!).

Of course, your interest and aptitude in any given profession are impacted by the outside world. As I have seen in my multiple and cross-functional careers as an IT executive, college professor and entrepreneur, sometimes timing and circumstance can determine what career opportunities are available.

 

Consider, for example, the current economic situation. Is it a recession or not? Will the layoffs continue, or will workers stay where they are and weather the economic uncertainty? More to the point, how might these external factors impact your career?  

One way might be something known as career diversification. Here, I’ll share why I’ve found career diversification is a good thing to cultivate, plus three ways you can take advantage of this in your career.

 

What is career diversification?

Plainly put, career diversification is the practice of developing multiple sources of income — and multiple skill sets — over the course of your working life.

For many people, that looks like a side hustle of some sort. A freelance gig you tackle in your off-hours or a small business you run outside of your 9-to-5. Not only does this portfolio career approach offer additional income, but it also allows you some sense of security. If you lose your regular job, you have a side business already in play to help generate income. Or, if you want to take your career in a different direction, you are developing potential skills to use in a new role.

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The rise of the portfolio career

That said, it’s also true that many people work multiple jobs not to pursue long-term lucrative goals but to make ends meet. This is a different kind of hustle and one that inspires many people to pursue higher education. Even this experience, however, can teach you diverse skills that you can potentially use down the road.  

Why diversify?

The advantages of career diversification transcend income, although that’s a big one. Working cross-functionally translates to a host of skills and opportunities that can help you in the following ways.

Advantage 1: Multiple sources of income

I said it’s a big one and it is. Career diversification can offer additional income as well as the potential for growth.

During a bear market, you have the opportunity to work for an employer and take advantage of the stability of a 9-to-5 job (e.g., salary, benefits) to start your own small business. (Just make sure you aren’t competing with your employer!)

A side hustle can look many ways. Maybe it’s an online shop or a freelance gig. In my case, it was knowledge commerce. For me, a k-commerce business made sense. It let me monetize my knowledge and experience, which included such positions as vice president of program management for a Department of Defense company, college professor, Vistage executive coaching member and combat veteran. I took all that and founded Professional Career Transformations (PCT) in 2021 because of my passion and duty to help students and professionals identify their career goals and chart a path toward achieving them.

In a way, PCT formalized what I’d done anecdotally over my 20-year career as a leader, manager and educator. I have provided countless students and professionals with crossover insight into the world of career diversification; my k-commerce community and business now helps more participants strategically pursue their career goals.

K-commerce can make sense for a lot of people. While my area of expertise focuses on career growth, a cybersecurity expert might share knowledge about how to find high-paying IT security jobs with a few industry certifications. A project management professional might share knowledge about how to more effectively manage deadlines and people. A dating advice expert might share knowledge about how to find happiness in fulfilling relationships. A YouTube expert might share knowledge about how to grow and monetize a YouTube channel. A CPA might share knowledge on how to allocate revenue from your small business to cover business operating costs, taxes, profit and income while working toward expansion.

You get the idea. K-commerce essentially takes a person’s knowledge and applies it toward solving a problem in a way that’s relatable and easy to understand for a broad audience.

Sharing knowledge can be a validating complement to k-commerce. Whether creating online video content, hosting a podcast, instructing at a traditional institution (for which certain licensure and certification may be required), lecturing or facilitating a professional training boot camp, sharing knowledge is a two-way street. That means you can see what resonates with your audience in real time and adjust your k-commerce approach accordingly.

Do you see where I'm going with this? Developing a career portfolio of side hustles could result in the flexibility for you to adapt and exploit opportunities in various market conditions. 

 

Advantage 2: Crossover opportunities

As mentioned, I am the vice president of an IT company, and I also teach college courses at a local university. One could argue there is inherent crossover value with this type of career diversity. While teaching at the college, I bring real-world career development knowledge from my VP experience that my students may not otherwise have access to. This knowledge can support my students’ innovation down the line because it diversifies their career worldview within the academic setting.

And it also benefits me. As a corporate professional who teaches, I can develop skills in both arenas and apply them interchangeably. For example, I have a better understanding of internship recruitment and educational training methods from teaching, which I can use in my corporate role.

This adaptive and flexible skill set is one example from my personal life, but consider how it may apply to your situation. Think about what your skills are and who else can benefit from them. You yourself might just learn a thing or two in the process.  

 

Advantage 3: Career enhancement and insurance

By having multiple ways to earn money, you prepare for unexpected changes in the job landscape. This is a smart move that can give you confidence about how to maintain career growth and progression. Adding skills through a side hustle means you may be better prepared for new career opportunities that you may not know exist today.

Career diversity also allows you to explore and gratify your interests. Of all your enterprises, for example, there is likely at least one in which you will take pride and pleasure in advancing. The skills and expertise you gain can expand your knowledge base for executive-level positions that have cross-functional knowledge. (Think finance, business development, marketing, project management and so on.)

Cross-functional skills can also be helpful in your current role when you have to make decisions or take on an assignment outside your traditional scope.

The best advantage, however, may just be the way career diversification can open your eyes to multiple career paths that are synergistically connected. By having multiple avenues to explore and cultivate, that may even help reduce career burnout over the course of your professional life and give you a boost in your strategic career planning.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of University of Phoenix.

Portrait of Dr. Patrick C. Horton smiling

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Patrick C. Horton, MBA, DM/IST, is the vice president of program management for Tampa Microwave, a college professor and a veteran U.S. Army sergeant. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, his Master of Business Administration and his Doctor of Management with a specialization in Information Systems at University of Phoenix. Dr. Horton launched his business, Professional Career Transformations, in 2021 as a way to guide and encourage others to identify and pursue their career goals. He is a member of Vistage Executive Coaching Group and a recipient of the Purple Heart in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and he lives in sunny Florida. Learn more about Dr. Horton and his commitment to helping others achieve their highest level of success by visiting his website and be sure to watch this video on career diversification on his YouTube channel.

 

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