Landing your dream job isn’t as easy for some people as it is for others. And unless you’re a #girlboss on a mission with no problem staying focused at work, finding happiness in your nine-to-five can feel like more of an effort than what you’re actually getting paid to do. But if you find yourself at a crossroads and you’re ready to make a career change, you might want to take award-winning entrepreneurship lecturer and venture-capitalist expert Diane Mulcahy’s advice: Stop looking for a job. (Or at least a full time one, that is.)

Woman with headphones and notebook at laptop

In her new book,The Gig Economy: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want, Diane argues that the best way to take control of your career and your future is to build up a diversified portfolio of gigs, including a mix of short-term jobs, contract work and consulting assignments.

You might be thinking, “But whatever happened to gaining success through company loyalty and paying your dues?” According to Diane, that mentality is heading out the door — if not already passé — and following it could be a riskier decision now than ever. She says, “There is no corporate ladder anymore, and long tenure is not necessarily rewarded at all. Companies are far more likely to eliminate, outsource, contract or automate what was previously your job than they are to shepherd you through a decade of career progression and increasing compensation.”

Aside from unfulfillment in your career, economic factors are playing into the decision to forgo full-time. “Income security,” Diane notes, “is the driver behind having a diversified portfolio of gigs. There is no job security, so income security is what matters to workers. A diversified portfolio of gigs means that unemployment — and therefore zero income — is very unlikely. You may lose a client or a consulting project or have to turn down an assignment, but each loss is only a percent of your income, not all of it. You can lose a job in an instant, but it’s very unlikely that you’ll lose a whole portfolio of gigs all at once.”

Think a shift to a diversified portfolio might be in your cards? Diane suggests checking out platforms like Upwork for freelancing options across many sectors, as well as more niche sites like HourlyNerd, TopCoder or Freelance Physician for specialized opportunities. When you’re ready to take the plunge, Diane offers the following tips for making the switch as seamless and successful as possible.

young woman working at cafe

1. Adopt an opportunity mindset. Early on, it can be tempting to take anything that comes your way, but that might not be the best route to the fulfilling work you’re looking for. Diane says to ask yourself, “What work can I do, and what value can I bring?” instead of, “What job can I get?”

2. Think in terms of a portfolio, not a job. While it might seem like having only worked at one or two companies could be a negative when searching for consultancy or freelance work, the skills you’ve acquired over those years are priceless. Diane encourages, “No matter what career phase you’re in, you have an array of marketable skills. Mix and match them to land various gigs that together will create a diversified portfolio of work.”

3. Be prepared to sell ideas and results, not time and presence. “Shift your focus from seeking pay in exchange for your physical presence and mental attention to being compensated for deliverable outcomes,” suggests Diane.

4. Build your skills and a pipeline of work. Diane notes that having a lot of projects on your plate or on the horizon doesn’t mean you should automatically close the door on conversations around new business. “Even when you’ve got plenty of work, stay alert for potential future opportunities,” she reminds.

5. Create an exit strategy to quit your job. Let’s be honest: You’re probably not going to wake up tomorrow, go to work and quit your job (but if you’re ready, you go girl!). It’s important to have a plan. Diane agrees, saying, “An exit strategy is a vision of what you can do after leaving your current job — and how to get there. It forces you to consider and plan for what’s next, ensuring you won’t be caught unprepared by a sudden layoff or downsizing.”

Are you currently living the gig life? Tweet us your experience @BritandCo!

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