In his 1989 book, The Age of Unreason, Irish author Charles Handy made a startling prediction about the future of organizations.
He argued that businesses would soon be smaller and the workforce would be comprised of “portfolio people.”
And what is a portfolio person?
Handy describes a portfolio as a multifaceted career, comprised of different types of work that include fee work, salary work, and gift work. And soon, this is how we will all describe what we do — not as a job, but as a portfolio.
The 40-year career is dead
And for most of us, this is good news. People are not robots, programmed to do one activity.
We are complex creatures with many different interests and abilities. So why shouldn’t our careers reflect our diversity?
Let me paint a picture of a portfolio life …
What if instead of thinking of your work as a monolithic activity, you chose to see it as the complex group of interests, passions, and activities that it truly is?
What if instead of identifying with a job description, you began to see everything you do as one portfolio of activity?
And what if you embraced this challenge instead of avoiding it? Well, then you just might be a rainmaker.
There are several steps you can take to move toward a portfolio life so you don’t get left behind in the changing economy.
Step #1: Build a network
We all know successful individuals who seem to attract people to them in any situation.
What is it about these magnetic personalities that make them so successful? The old adage “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know” is wrong. Or at least, it’s incomplete.
A rainmaker understands that without the right relationships, you don’t get the opportunities that lead to breakthroughs in your business. And smart networkers are in it for the long haul. They adopt a much smarter adage.
It’s not who you know; it’s who you help.
In his book Give and Take, Adam Grant explains that successful people give more than they take. But they also give strategically by creating a network of generosity that benefits everyone involved.
I’ve seen this in the lives of the most successful people I know. Success begets more success, and you can increase your opportunities for success by spending time with the right people.
Don’t just wait for your lucky break. Seek out opportunity. Usually, that’s not a question where or what, but who.
Action step: The best way to build a network is to join an existing community. You can become a member of a content marketing and networking community, such as Authority, where people are already connecting and participate in relevant conversations.
Step #2: Create your own space
There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information! ~ Cosmo, Sneakers
The future belongs to those with the best ideas.
In what is now commonly called the Information Age, we understand that wealth and opportunity are inextricably linked to innovation and technology. And that it all begins with a good idea.
The problem with ideas is that everybody has them. So how do you get yours to stand out? You can do something even smarter that just thinking of new ideas: become a curator of ideas, as well.
You need a digital footprint. You’ve got to set your stake in the ground, carving out your own piece of the digital landscape. And the last thing you want is to be called a copycat.
But why not take someone else’s idea and build on it?
The first Apple computer was built on borrowed technology, soldered together in a garage. So was just about every other computer company that came out of Silicon Valley. There was no other way to do it. All the geeks gathered together, shared their technology, and then stole from each other.
Robert Greene wrote in his book Mastery that the future belongs to those who learn new skills and combine them in interesting ways. The same is true for content marketers.
It’s not the newest ideas that win. It’s the oldest, repurposed and shared in unique ways.
Action step: Launch your own online marketing and sales platform, and create engaging, unique, and useful content.
Step #3: Learn the right way to sell
Now it’s easy for someone to set up a storefront and reach the entire world in very modest ways. So these technologies that we thought would dis-intermediate traditional sellers gave more people the tools to be sellers. ~ Daniel Pink
Everyone is selling something. Whether it’s an idea, a cause, or a product, we all are in the sales business. The problem is we don’t always realize it, so we don’t always learn the best ways to position ourselves in the sales arena.
Rainmakers knows how to, well, make it rain. They produce.
In the field of law, a rainmaker is not an ambulance-chaser. She’s not some cheap hawker of crappy products. She’s the linchpin of the organization. And as such, she wears a lot of hats: networker, marketer, and of course, salesperson.
If you’re going to take control of your future instead of letting it happen to you, you’re going to have to learn how to sell, which of course includes possessing the right tools.
Action step: Create something that your audience has asked for — and let them pay you for it. Find an easy-to-use tool that makes ecommerce easy.
Begin building your portfolio right now
According to a 2013 article on Forbes, freelancers are expected to make up half of the American full-time workforce by 2020.
Some of these people are being forced into self-employment due to mass lay-offs, whereas others like myself, and maybe you, have chosen such a path.
Why would we do that? Because we see the writing on the wall. We feel it in our bones. And we want to be an active agent in the development of our futures, not a fading memory of what once was.
Soon, we could all be rainmakers, whether we like it or not. The challenge, then, is not whether you should start building your portfolio, but when.
Choosing to see my career as a portfolio, instead of as a single job, has helped me make sense of what I do more than anything else.
It has created a greater sense of freedom for myself and my family and given my life a greater sense of purpose. Maybe it will do the same for you, too.
Let’s continue the discussion about our portfolio lives over on LinkedIn …