Suit business red Think of your career the same way you think of your stock portfolio: diversify, so you can stand out. Credit: Digital Vision

Gone are the days when you could rely on one source of income to survive. Secure full-time jobs are scarce — the economy is too unpredictable, and there are many external factors that you can’t control — like your company going into bankruptcy or eliminating your department.

Amid all this uncertainty are corporations that aren’t hiring, even though they are making more money. And just because you work at a well respected company doesn’t mean you’re protected from unpredictable layoffs. For instance, Macy’s is laying off 2,500 employees, Merck is laying off 8,500 and Cisco is cutting 4,000. These layoffs happen with alarming regularity.

 

In this kind of employment climate, you need to have multiple sources of income. The best way to accomplish that is by having an entrepreneurial mindset; think about career diversification the same way you think about managing a portfolio of stocks. If you put all of your money on one stock and it plummets, you are broke and living with your parents. On the other hand, if you invest in a series of stocks across various industries, you are more balanced — and if one tanks, you can stay afloat.

Although freelancing can be difficult, it is the easiest path to career diversification, and it’s becoming more and more popular. Intuit predicts that 40 percent of American workers will be freelancers by the year 2020. With freelancing you can take on multiple clients, and if you lose one you can still survive. Aside from the benefit of freedom and flexibility, it diversifies you in a way that protects you from economic uncertainty. If you work for a big corporation, you should be doing side projects (such as freelancing) just in case you get laid off. You can also parlay your entrepreneurial activity outside of work into a full-time job if you concentrate enough effort on it.

Diversifying your career is the smartest decision you can make because it gives you the upper hand in your career, and is your best insurance plan against things that you can’t control.

Dan Schawbel is a workplace expert, keynote speaker, and author of the New York Times best-selling book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.

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