Professionals had to stay inside one box. For PR people that was the communications box. For instance, teaching a LSAT test preparation course a couple of nights a week would generate doubts about a PR person's commitment to her day job.
In addition, the status of the two was not equal, diluting the prestige of the PR position. If a PR person had a part-time gig, she would keep it under wraps.
That was then. There was no ambiguity. The burden now is on the individual professional to figure out the new rules of economic survival for his or her unique situation.
The classic career guide “What Color Is Your Parachute? 2018” stresses that The Great Recession changed everything about work. Employers, clients, and customers have become totally focused on cost-efficiency. That accelerated the gigantic shifts in the labor market digital technology had already been causing.
Currently, whole industries, ranging from bank lending to publishing, keep disappearing. On the average, a job lasts 4.2 years. The unemployed can expect to be searching for a job for 25 weeks, compared to 12 back in 1990.
In the book “Disrupted,” Dan Lyons puts it bluntly: earning a living means the continual search for work. In “iGen,” Jean Twenge describes those born between 1995 and 2012 as focused on just that – earning a living – not pursuing the grandiose abstraction of a “career.” They have observed the careers of their parents and older siblings go poof.
Given the new realities, financial experts are advising professionals to start doing what entrepreneurs have always had to do. That is, develop multiple sources of income or side hustles. Those spread the financial risk. And, if the employees’ core competence becomes unmarketable they already have another type of expertise to build on – immediately.
In addition, the latter could also be the seeds for growing an encore career after retirement. According to a Federal Reserve Board study, one-third of retirees return to the workforce.
The standard example of current side hustles is PR people scrambling to teach college courses. They realize that if their corporations merge, they could be declared “redundant” and laid off. Or, their high salary could get the attention of the bean counters and they are forced out.
Universities need adjunct professors. Moreover, this experience could lead to full-time employment with benefits such as employer-paid medical insurance. Because the two lines of work are closely related, usually there isn’t push-back that they are not fully committed to their “day job.” They list both on their resumes and that’s that.
However, there are other kinds of side hustles, which can still be dangerous to the primary source of income. Those occur when the multiple sources of income aren’t so clearly related as the teaching gigs. That’s what I call “mutt branding.”
Suppose lawyers in the downsizing legal sector are considering developing side hustles as motivational speakers. After all, they excel in the art of public speaking in the courtroom and at the negotiation table. In reality the fit is natural. In perception, they could be damaging their branding as lawyers.
First, they have to assess if the mutt branding would undermine their credibility in their primary job. Do clients in the Fortune 100 want their interests represented by a professional who also tells Everyman and Everywoman they should reach for the stars?
If they decide to try out the side hustle, they have to position and package their two lines of work as reinforcing each other. Yes, the two must appear to be integrated and to create new value for the clients of both services.
That comes down to identifying the skills required for success in both. Then explicitly showing how they are related.
The elevator speech among lawyers would be: My work as a motivational speaker has helped me be a more effective lawyer. And, for the motivational speaking market, the elevator speech would be: My work as a lawyer has helped me change lives as a motivational speaker. In addition, there would be different backgrounders, resumes, cover letters, and interview scripting for each line of work. After all, each has a different market segment.
Mutt branding can be worth the risk since it can have unexpected positive outcomes. For decades my branding had been ghostwriter/scriptwriter. As that space became glutted, I took the risk and integrated my side hustle – coaching those over-50– into my branding.
The stunner has been that has generated a surge of communications assignments. They outnumber coaching ones. My hunch is that my identity as a coach sends the messages: This creative is capable of deep caring for clients. She isn’t in her own dimension.
On the LinkedIn profile and in social media, I integrate the two. But, in targeted marketing I have developed separate material for each. As with all pitching, what matters is having down cold what those in the segments want employees or vendors to accomplish through the service. The message will be specific and action-oriented: Here is exactly what I can do for you. That can undercut any qualms about the mutt branding.
Jane Genova is a communications strategists/content-creator and a coach for the over-50 – firstname.lastname@example.org.