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Diversifying Your Porfolio...Career Portfolio That Is...

Posted Aug 24 2008 9:42pm

In money matters, financial advisors tell us the rule of thumb is to diversify our investments. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Never 100% in stocks and certainly never 100% all in one stock. You need some cash, some bonds, CDs or term deposits, mutual funds, stock mix (domestic and international), big and small business. That way if one sector crashes, at least you are safe in your other areas of investment. Your portfolio may wobble, but it will not fall.



If you are risk adverse, then you hedge your portfolio to the bond/cash side of conservative investment. If you are risk confident, more money to play with, you look for dynamic trends and high paying, riskier stocks. And there is a whole world of range in between.



So why would we, as boomers and 50 plussers treat our career portfolios so differently? I've been exploring the concepts of multi-channel in career, or "career-chunking" and from what I sense, this will become the new direction for our demographic. If you think about your range of career, whether you stayed in one job for 25 years (not as likely anymore) or one industry for 35 years (often the case) or moved around every 4-7 years following a new pursuit (very often the case especially for the later boomers --1957-1964 range) then you have a lifetime of experience and diversity in your skill set that can and should translate into different chunks or opportunities in the job market.



If you are risk adverse, then you'll want one job with one employer and the security that implies to you. That's what you'll look for, that's where you'll feel comfortable and you'll send out 400 - 1000+ resumes in your job search until you find a position that does or doesn't fit into your goals, but will be a job. The fallacy is that there is job security. Take a look at the competition -- the Gen Y'ers that employers are falling over themselves to hang on to. Does Gen Y stick around for more than a couple of years? No. They look for opportunities that fit their life goals and work/life balance and not the other way around. Employers like them because they are very technology savvy -- in fact, way ahead of most of their employers, so they bring a desired skill set to the table. But...they don't have stick-to-it-iveness, don't deliver or believe in customer service, want what they want now (including heft salary jumps), and if the job doesn't fit in with their lifestyle, they'll leave and find one that will.



A one-year job is a long time for a Gen Yer (tech stock) and is a drop in the bucket for a Boomer (blue chip). Wow. Worlds apart, no? So, if there really no longer is job security, and even worse, if it continues to be so hard to find work at 50 plus, how do you pay the bills? That is where chunking or multi-channeling comes in.



Small business will continue to grow as 50 plussers create business in order to make money. We will no longer be saved by (for the most part)traditional jobs with traditional employers for many of us. Pensions are a thing of the past, employee contribution into the medical plans is growing, succession planning is taking a back seat in favor of basic retention initiatives.



So, in order to even understand what you have to offer, in order to take the greatest advantage of career opportunities while minimizing your risk, you need to look at your full portfolio and see where you have spread your work investment. Once you've identified that, then you can focus on your own ROI (Return on Investment).



Let me give you an example. I started off at university with a BA -- liberal arts and a love of film and theatre. My career portfolio then went on to embrace sales, theatre and film careers, non-profit (public relations and development), field director of operations, national director for a large corporation, and building a small business while learning social media and social networking. That is very diverse. My strongest assets are my general management expertise combined with my knowledge of social media (Web 2.0). And within the range of general management alone, I can split out P&L, budgeting, marketing (service or product), management, training, content creation, knowledge management....and on and on...you get the picture.



The smart move, if traditional, conservative job search hasn't been working (and yes, jobs are being cut, and yes, there really is a recession edging in on us...) is to look at each skill set as a portfolio chunk and find focused jobs, contracts, or positions that embrace an individual skill or chunk. This means I retool or reposition my skills to maximize my return on that set. Spreading or diversifying my career portfolio and capitalizing on each area as a subset of that portfolio.



Let's say I had a less eclectic, more traditional career path...if I had been in the mortgage industry for 25 years, or an office manager for 20, it would then be important to identify and isolate the particular skills I developed in those positions to prepare them for retooling and diversification.



To my perception, this is an important theme and one that I'll continue to revisit.



Here is some food for thought. China has 400,000,000 citizens over the age of 50. More than the population of the entire North American continent. They have moved from a rural, agrarian culture, to an industrialized one in a very short time. Kids have left the farms for the cities, leaving aging parents to care for the land. An entire culture is going to be retooled because the government cannot create the types of programs needed to service so many -- all converting demographics at the same time. Kind of like our social security debacle, only multiplied many times over and over again. Compared to the scope of that challenge, boomer chunking/diversification should be a piece'o'cake.

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