Want More? Develop a “Micro-Career”

Article written by  Dr. Marla Gottschalk on Linkedin


I don’t believe in setting limits on career fulfillment. However, we seem to do a pretty good job of self-imposing such constraints. Over time, we tend to define ourselves quite narrowly — when in fact we are all multifaceted individuals. During the “exclusion” process, we permanently sideline other career interests that have not transacted into solid opportunities. This can eventually lead to a bit of career regret. Have you ever found yourself ruminating on that part of your career “self” that you’ve left behind? I am beginning to believe this is a common experience.

Our relationship with work and career is quite layered — and for many, there are alternative career interests that have been “checked at the door”. These interests wait in the wings, so to speak, undeveloped and underutilized. In many cases, embracing a second (or third) “micro-career” can offer not only personal satisfaction and balance, but financial benefits as well. In this day and age, you can explore an untapped career passion without necessarily leaving your current role behind. Many of us possess a skill set that is not accessed in our current roles. (I know that I am far happier for adding blogging to my world of work.)

So, I’ll pose this question to you: Would you be happier if you could develop an additional “micro-career”?

On-line & On-Demand

Interestingly, the development of on-demand marketplaces for talent and expertise have proven to be a path to address this common career dilemma. Powered by the flexibility of the internet (and the developing trend of the collaborative economy), you can effectively transact a second career strength into a promising micro-career. Sites such as O-Desk and Elance afford the opportunity to do just that, with the ability to post detailed profiles, surf posted jobs, monitor project progress and track time.

As described by David Costello, CEO of ServiceScape, a forum to book assignments in editing, translation and the graphic arts, “our clients find the talent they need and negotiate all aspects of the project including time constraints and cost. Our providers can promote or remove their profile when they are able to work. For example, teachers can post their profile in the summer months, and remove their profile for potential projects in the fall.”

Schedule Permitting

Direct-selling businesses also provide unique opportunities to develop an alternative career interest — and can actively indulge an entrepreneurial mindset. (Tupperware brilliantly pioneered this type of role in the 1950’s.) Newer ventures such as Pampered Chef and Silpada Designs have capitalized on the energy of those who desire an entrepreneurial challenge — but may find themselves unable to work within a traditional work schedule. Individuals have the opportunity to develop their own career trajectory, based upon available levels of time and motivation. Many of these individuals have other roles, but augment their career “portfolio” with another path.

Co-Presidents of Silpada Designs, Kelsey Perry and Ryane Delka, truly understand the potential power of a micro-career. Perry says, “Any individual can fashion a career where they can set their own hours, their agenda and their goal income level. Whether it’s a teacher who is looking for extra income, a stay-at-home parent wanting to maintain a connection with professional life, or a CEO who wants more from work life, Silpada is designed for everyone.” As further explained by Delka, “We consistently hear from our representatives that ‘I found myself in Silpada.’ To us, this means we are providing a path for individuals to turn themselves into the people they’re supposed to be. We get chills every time we hear this.”

Explore Intrapreneurship

If constraints such as time limit your options — it is possible to explore a micro-career within your current organization. An increasing number of traditional organizations are harnessing the ideas of their employees, and identifying new, exciting revenue streams. While leaders may be responsible for setting overall direction, many realize that those closest to products and services are in a unique position to observe developing opportunities.

Recent research tells us that managers are more than willing to support employees who wish to explore these opportunities internally. (There is real value in disruption.) So, while you may have a keen eye for cutting-edge products and services — you may not have to strike out entirely on your own. What organization doesn’t need an entrepreneur? That individual may be you.

Hand-Made Opportunities

A modern “cottage industry” can also come into play when exploring an additional role — and taking it to the masses is one savvy method to consider. Creative individuals worldwide have discovered the power of Etsy, and have elevated the term of “craft” to an entirely new level. The e-commerce site, provides a showcase for the work of the individual craftspeople — and has quickly brought the “cool” back to “crafty”. The potential financial rewards are there as well. Recently, the high-end chain Nordstrom revealed it was partnering with the site through their new program Etsy wholesale. Along with other retailers (such as West Elm), they will sell items from select Etsy vendors within their stores — bringing a wider range of unique products to their customers.

Ultimately, we must have a conversation with ourselves concerning the state of own career paths — addressing facets that have been missing or neglected. Hopefully, this will lead to a measure of exploration and an acceptance that careers can be multidimensional. In the larger world, mechanisms that capitalizes on under-utilized talent and services, will prove to be a key opportunity for those wishing to add a micro-career to the mix.

As discussed here, the advent of the social era will change how we approach work and career. As a result, many of the barriers we have lived with career-wise, may simply fall away.

Would you be happier if you could launch an alternative micro-career? Have you done this successfully? Tell us your story.

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