Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Portfolio Jobs: Everything Old is New Again

When I was in sixth grade, I remember learning about the concept of portfolio jobs. It was the "workplace of the future." Instead of having a job that lasted years and years, you might have two or three "project"-oriented jobs each year, working on defined tasks and then moving on. Or you might have a couple of part-time jobs instead of one full-time job.

That was back around 1984. In the intervening years, job tenures did become progressively shorter, and the "lifetime" job, where you started in the mailroom and retired as CEO, all but disappeared. The portfolio job hasn't really materialized … but the idea lives on.

I was reading the July 7-13, 2014 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek and came across a book review by Bryant Urstadt reviewing The Alliance, a book written by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and entrepreneurs Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh.

In the book, Urstadt says, Hoffman suggests keeping employees engaged by "setting up 'tours of duty' involving specific tasks such as managing groups, then mining the networks they form."

While not exactly the definition of portfolio careers I learned in the sixth grade, it's interesting that the project-oriented career is still being explored. It works well in Hollywood, where the "gig" lifestyle is geared around a movie: People are hired, do their jobs, and then move on to the next project.

Perhaps it's coming to the Fortune 500 company near you.

As resume writers, it's something to consider. Maybe there will be a whole new resume format that arises to help meet the need of describing this project-oriented career. After all, as anyone who has ever written a resume for an IT consultant or project manager knows, those resumes can easily stretch to 4, 5, or even 6 pages or more.

Urstadt writes, "Hoffman's ideas have grown out of an environment where young workers with elite backgrounds and big personal dreams are feverishly recruited under the guise of changing the world."

These are the clients who will be hiring us. If not now, they will soon be.

Food for thought, for sure.

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