Why Portfolio Careers are Gleeful

I’m going to ‘fess up...I was a major Gleek (fan of the TV show Glee). However, I stopped watching TV a few years ago, and so I had stopped watching the show after Season 3.

Enter Netflix, which has given me the opportunity to binge watch reruns of Glee, which I’ve been doing this week, triggered by seeing Harry Shum, Jr in the end credits of Crazy Rich Asians.

With the passing of Cory Monteith five years ago and Mark Salling earlier this year, both under tragic circumstances, rewatching those early episodes was really bittersweet.

Why mashups are powerful

But I digress...the reason I bring up Glee, is that I was reminded of the power of the mashup.

In many episodes, the Glee team would mash songs from different genres and artistes to bring added richness to their performances and bring in nuanced emotions that one song alone could not. There’s even an episode where Will attempts (unsuccessfully) to create a mash-up between the Thong Song and I Could Have Danced All Night for Emma and Ken’s wedding. Probably the worst idea ever, and thankfully one that was abandoned.

Mashups lead innovation

One of the greatest inventions and companies are based on the mash up principle: the modern smartphone. These pocket sized powerhouses blend a music player, TV, phone, and now it’s the medium through which many of us bank, shop, manage our time, manage our teams, keep an eye on our kids and elderly parents, keep in contact with friends halfway around the world, job hunt, house hunt, date, break up, book restaurants,  … the list goes on.

Similarly, when moving from a professional corporate role into a portfolio career, the ability to take your diverse skills, talents, and interests and turn them into a medley of transferable, desirable services is something that needs to be honed and put into action.

The power of the mashup

Mashups are powerful because they bring together multiple perspectives, experiences, ideas and tools to create something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. My work experience across many industries enabled me to understand different businesses much more quickly, and this enriches my ability to see what is different, and what is common, in disparate industries, cultures, expectations and so on, in my work as a coach.

Not “either/or” but “and”

Take for example, someone I spoke to this week. He’s a high achieving corporate executive at a crossroads who wants to tap into a talent that he’s been cultivating since his childhood - the love of writing, playing and arranging music.

We were having a chat about this when it struck me - what about blending his corporate experience with music? Lots of us are used to thinking in “either/or” rather than “and”, so the mashup idea that arose was not an obvious one. But the more we thought about it, the more excited we became. I can’t reveal the details, but that small bud of an idea was certainly more inspiring to him (and me) than our earlier conversation about the direction he was thinking of taking in his corporate career.

Boredom + Imagination = Mashups = Portfolio Career

That’s the thing about me - and if you’ve even considered a portfolio career, probably you as well. I am easily bored and I simply cannot do a role in a specific field for more than three years. I like to mix things up a bit - sometimes in ways that others don’t “get”.

What I find has been instrumental in developing mashup ideas, and coaching clients as they leave their professions and move into portfolio careers, is imagination. Being able to see things in a different way; embracing the unknown and letting the imagination flow; and being unafraid to spout “nonsense” as I brainstorm through ideas (again, something that was not looked at too kindly when I was in my corporate roles).

That’s the beauty of portfolio careers. We can do what we love, in the way that we love them, and mix things up when the beat gets old.

My current mash-up is executive coach (itself a richly mashed up field, depending on your niche, clients and approach) - timber genetics project manager - writer - mindfulness practitioner - Career Adventurist. A friend is an investment manager-coach-entrepreneurship advisor. Yet another is a banker-music teacher-dancer.

What could your mashup be?

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