Portfolio Careers Offer Variety and Security

Instructor Bob Voss teaching in front of a class.

How entrepreneurship can produce multiple streams of income

The global economy remains troubled and uncertain. The U.S. still struggles to emerge from the Great Recession. Government shutdowns and debt ceiling brinkmanship ramp up anxiety levels. Unemployment and underemployment are facts of life for millions of people. The traditional one-company career  ladder—that steady tick-tock of promotions leading to retirement with a pension and gold watch—has lost most of its rungs.

“Career ladders died out during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when over 85 percent of Fortune 1000 American companies downsized their white-collar workforce,” wrote Priscilla Claman, president of Career Strategies, Inc., in a February 2012 piece for the Harvard Business Review. “Downsizing has only escalated from there, however in the 80s and 90s the lost jobs were not in manufacturing but white-collar jobs, including management jobs. As companies thinned out, those leadership positions disappeared—and most haven’t come back since.”

“Increasingly, people are finding that they don’t want to do the same thing day in and day out. The traditional, single-track career pattern of the last century (think ladder) is now more difficult to find, and if you do pursue that, you’ll almost certainly have to move between companies.” — Barrie Hopson, co-author of 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career.

Bob Voss, the Entrepreneurship/Small Business instructor at Dakota County Technical College, agrees that times can be tough for people stuck on the wrong side of the income gap. Voss also noted that options exist that boost revenue and strengthen the overall economic security of individuals and families. One option that has been gaining considerable traction over the past several years is the portfolio career track.

“Portfolio careerists bring in dollars from multiple sources—not just one full-time job,” Voss said. “Incomes are linked to part-time jobs, contract and freelance work, and/or a personal business. Even if they do have full-time occupations, portfolio careerists actively pursue outside interests designed to not only make money, but also satisfy their creative, enterprising sides.”

Voss added that starting and running a small business (or businesses) on the side is a key aspect of the typical portfolio career. “The entrepreneurial spirit is at the heart of any portfolio career,” he said. “Portfolio careerists crave variety and are not comfortable with someone else dictating their financial destiny. They like the idea of having four or five different income streams as a way to safeguard their overall prosperity. Running your own business can easily be part of a larger career portfolio.”

“The 400 richest people in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 150 million put together,” said Berkeley Professor and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on a recent CNNMoney panel on inequality. Meanwhile, the median wage earner in America took home 9 percent less last year than in 1999. — CNNMoney • Sept. 2013

Initially, many people managing portfolio careers were following the path of diversity out of necessity thanks to the global economic downturn. More and more, people are finding that portfolio careers are an ideal way to integrate work with life so that working and living are no longer separate functions, but a blended approach aimed at achieving personal and professional fulfillment.

“Portfolio careerists love the idea of doing what they really want to do,” Voss said. “They enjoy the challenge of multiple endeavors. They are flexible and unfazed by change. They are disciplined self-starters with a knack for time and risk management, networking, and absorbing lots of information in a hurry. In short, portfolio careerists are by definition entrepreneurs.”

Portfolio Career Advantages
  1. Greater variety, especially appealing to those with low-boredom thresholds and a chance of more fulfilling work.
  2. The chance to be your own boss with much greater levels of independence.
  3. A means of self-discovery as you continually learn and grow from the wide-ranging experiences on offer.
  4. An option for a more effective work/life balance adding to your quality of life.
  5. Longevity of employment an important consideration as pensions continue to erode.
  6. Greater security as you refrain from putting all your employment eggs in one basket.

— Portfolio Careers: The Intersection Between Skills & Passions • Kath Roberts at Career Coaching • July 2013

The central core of the Entrepreneurship/Small Business program at DCTC investigates the processes and procedures needed to transform an entrepreneurial idea into a viable business operation. As a student, you will analyze small-business management practices in combination with the new ways business ventures are created, designed, developed and operated. As a prospective portfolio careerist, you will learn the most sensible ways to get a powerful, new income stream off the ground and making headway.

Adult learners in the program have the opportunity to earn college credits for life and career experience through Credit for Prior Learning, or CPL. To discover how you can accelerate your progress toward a degree, diploma or certificate, follow this link: Credit for Prior Learning.

About the instructor

Bob Voss has been launching and growing businesses for the last 35 years. Voss holds two patents for optical code technology and has raised more than $8 million for the companies he has started. In 2002, he accepted the opportunity to start the groundbreaking Business Entrepreneur  program (today the Entrepreneurship/Small Business program) at DCTC. Four years later, he was recognized as the DCTC Outstanding Instructor of the Year. In 2008, he was again honored, this time as the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) National Business Entrepreneur Instructor of the Year.

Voss has written four books about entrepreneurship and starting small businesses:

  • Will My New Business Succeed?
  • Is Starting A Business Right For Me?
  • The Interview Assignment
  • 21 Question Business Plan
For more information about portfolio careers and the Entrepreneurship/Small Business program at DCTC, contact:
  • Bob Voss
    Entrepreneurship/Small Business Instructor