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Why juggling multiple jobs can be better for your career

If you’re the sort of person who thrives on juggling multiple jobs, there’s good news coming your way.

Taking on a mish-mash of work opportunities, a concept now often referred to as a ‘portfolio career’, could not only be good for your interest levels and lifestyle – but help make you more successful too.

Why you might choose a portfolio career

Deakin’s manager of graduate recruitment services, Gavin Walker, says there’s a whole range of reasons someone might choose – or feel it’s the only option – to take more than one job at a time.

Perhaps you can’t find a full-time job in your industry and are doing multiple things to cobble together a week’s work. Or you’re already working full-time, but want to transition to a different industry and have opted to work a second job in your spare time to get a foot in the door.

Walker gives the example of someone studying nutrition or dietetics. ‘They may work Monday to Friday in sales, or in a call centre, but then on a Saturday they’re doing some part-time work in a nutrition store or working in a chemist.’

Others might be setting up a business in their spare time, but hang on to their day job initially to pay the bills.

And then there are a growing number of people (think a freelancer or a highly skilled worker who dips in and out of contracts) who see a portfolio career – and the flexible lifestyle that might accompany it – as the end goal.

The benefits of having multiple jobs

Walker says the idea of having jobs, clients or contracts with a number of different companies is not exactly new. However it has become more common, with employers placing a greater value on those with niche skillsets who can dip in and out of different jobs.

From the employee’s perspective, taking on a particular contract or short-term piece of work it can be a smart tactical move.

‘It might be, “I know I’ve got accounting skills but I’ve never used this software. This company’s going to give me six weeks’ worth of using or being able to interact with that software which I can then put on my resume as having exposure to, which opens up a broader range of clientele that I can now work with,”’ Walker says.

'It might be, “I know I’ve got accounting skills but I’ve never used this software. This company’s going to give me six weeks’ worth of using or being able to interact with that software."'

Gavin Walker,
Graduate Employment Division, Deakin University

It could also be about building up new networks, or building your brand. Short-term contracts, or well-negotiated consulting or freelance work, can also do wonders for your bank balance.

What do employers think?

Today’s workforce has changed, with contingent workers – those engaged by companies on a non-permanent basis – said to make up around 30% of all Australian workers.

Walker says many employees have now moved away from a ‘why are you temping?’, ‘why haven’t you got a full-time job?’ type of attitude.

I think a lot of people are understanding that people do have niche skills and they can step in and support a business so they don’t have to hire that type of person ongoing for two years when they only really need them for a small piece of work.’

Walker says small to medium enterprises, which are often reliant on bigger suppliers or clientele themselves, always need people who are flexible and agile.

The potential negatives to consider

Juggling multiple jobs or becoming a freelancer, for instance, won’t suit everyone.

Some people simply prefer security, plus a regular pay cheque and the other perks that come with a full-time job, such as holiday pay and superannuation.

Those with a portfolio career will have to manage their own cash flow, health, potential isolation (if they don’t have colleagues), and realise they’ll now be in charge of everything from selling themselves, to marketing, time management and even IT.

‘The one thing you need to be conscious of with that is that it’s network driven and you need to be able to effectively manage your time and manage your networks to make sure you’ve got that consistency of work,’ Walker says.

He recommends having someone within your network, who you don’t work for, who you can bounce ideas off and share challenges with.

Skills of the future

One of the major benefits of doing multiple jobs is that it gives you the ability to try new things, and learn new skills – without risking everything.

It can also help you design the life you want – while proving your ability to communicate, blend into teams and work under tight deadlines. If you’re doing things right, it will also give you exposure to new networks and opportunities and even the ability to decide your own salary.

‘It’s all about, “I know I’ve got these skillsets, that’s what I bring to the table, but I don’t need to conduct it in a 40-hour week with one particular employer”,’ Walker says.

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Gavin Walker
Gavin Walker

Manager, Graduate Employment Division, Deakin University

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