I recently came across Marci Alboher’s interview with Tim Ferriss on redesigning your career. She shares insights on portfolio careers and people who’ve built multiple career identities.

Marci is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the future of work. She expanded her original career as a lawyer by negotiating a flexible working arrangement, which allowed her to travel and pursue other careers as a journalist/author, speaker and coach to aspiring writers. Today, she identifies as Author/Speaker/Nonprofit leader, though she often relies on her background in law and journalism.

“ Why have one label or identity? Life is long and it’s now commonplace to have multiple careers, either serially or concurrently…” – Marci Alboher

Marci traveled around the country to interview hundreds of people who have slash careers, from the lawyer/minister to the high school teacher/artist. She shared their stories in her book, One Person/Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to the Slash “/” Career. Now, she uses the term, “slash career,” to describe those who have multiple professional identities.

“It’s possible in today’s world to be a jack of all trades and a master of many.” – Tim Ferriss

See Also: A Practical Guide to Having Multiple Careers

I spoke with Marci to hear her latest thoughts on the future of work and career tips. 


Portfolio Careers are Available to Anyone

When I did the last edition of my book, the sharing economy had barely taken off. Now, there’s this whole new category of people who would never have thought they’d have multiple careers concurrently. Today just about anybody can have a slash career – though we might call it “passive income” or a “side hustle.”

These portfolio careers become part of people’s identities. A friend of mine who is an actor and stay-at-home dad is now managing the second unit of his home as an Airbnb, and that’s a huge part of his identity. His wife has a power job at a law firm, and this works well for their lifestyle. Right now. At another stage — perhaps when their son is older — they may make different choices.

The Rise of Encore Careers

These days, I’m particularly interested in what this looks like in mid- and later-life when people are thinking about how to use their life experience and skills to benefit society through a second or third career. In my circles, we call these encore careers.

When people are freed of financial or family obligations, often  they can return to an early passion or unfinished business. I’ve met people who never graduated high school or college, and they’re suddenly in their 50’s and go on to graduate from college.

One woman I interviewed for The Encore Career Handbook got laid off from her job at 50 and went on to get her GED, finish college and was thinking about getting a master’s degree! Others want to stay relevant and pursue new jobs in industries — like the solar industry — that didn’t even exist when they were starting out.

The stereotype we all have about aging is it’s harder to learn new things as we age. We even carry those ideas ourselves, and they can hold us back. The people who often feel most satisfied in their ‘encore’ years  are those who embrace learning new things. They go back to school or take classes online, often learning alongside (and from) much younger people.

A growth mindset is energizing.

Creating Impact Through Complementary Careers

You’ll notice how your early work experiences and skills accumulate over time to create your next career. I think I’m an example of that. I was a lawyer for my first career, then a journalist, then a writer, speaker, and educator. Now I’m working in nonprofits, and the work I do uses all my prior skills – communications and media, legal issues, management, and more.

The most common slashes? There’s huge swaths of the population that can  blend writing/speaking/teaching/consulting on top of any work they do. You can share your expertise with the world as a writer, speaker, or coach or other mentoring these slashes are even more common as we age — there’s a lot to pass on after you’ve been working (and living) for decades.

Spirituality Guiding Career Decisions

If you have a strong spiritual or faith focus, it can steer you towards making sure your career choices, whether they’re serial or concurrent, help you contribute positively to the world. You may choose to work in a faith setting and make it a vocation – this is true for people who are spiritual leaders, or enter an adjacent field like education or mind-body work like yoga.

Older people who are focused on giving back later in their life are focused on something bigger than themselves. It’s a very strong core for many people whether or not it’s connected to a spiritual practice.

But I think younger people today are not willing to wait to make choices that align with their values. Millennials are willing to put their money behind their values. They’re choosing jobs that align with their purpose. They want to find meaning, impact, autonomy, and freedom. And many are setting up lives that allow those choices by giving up some of their parents’ expectations around ownership of cars, houses etc…and thinking more creatively about travel, life-experience and the sharing economy.

Age Diversity in the Workplace

With longevity allowing for longer working lives, intergenerational teams will be increasingly important. We don’t really talk about age diversity in the workplace today as much as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation.

People at the older and younger age in the working world don’t feel valued enough, and I think we need to empower everyone at every stage of life and value the differences they bring to the workplace.

A Way of Life Around the World

The “slash” phenomenon we’re seeing in the US is taking place all over the world. The urge to find meaningful work is universal, so we shouldn’t be too surprised by this. I recently sold the rights to my book in China!

America is so focused on identity and labels that we tend to want to name all the things we do. But in other cultures around the world, slashing is just living. Maybe you’re a civic leader in your community and work 9-to-5, and you’re an artist by night – your passions and work are a seamless part of your life.

The Growing Gig Economy

More and more people today are becoming freelancers and independent workers — some by choice, others by necessity. The gig economy can feel aspirational or punitive, depending on the context. For those who imagine a very secure career with old school benefits, the gig economy can feel very scary. For people with more of an entrepreneurial mindset, it can be liberating and normal.

Not everyone’s designed to be entrepreneurial, and not everyone wants a lifestyle where you have to hustle and fend for yourself.


Write Down What Attracts You

If you’re the kind of person who has multiple interests and is likely to be slashing in your life, you may want to write down the things that are attracting you. You won’t be able to go down each path right now, or at once, and some things won’t fit with where you are in life. You can put a few passions off until you’re in a better place in life. Some slashers are fueled by economic decisions, and some are motivated by an artistic urge, and others have a desire for autonomy.

Choose Careers that Fit Your Lifestyle Now

Keep in mind that what works now may not work for another life stage. One way to think about careers generally is what works well for the life you’re living right now. It’s hard to think past the next 5 to 10 years.

I like the concept of the “anchor” and the “orbiter.” What’s the circumstance that’s anchoring you right now, and what orbits nicely around it? If you’re a grad student, you know what the next few years of your life will look like. You’ll have less flexibility, so what do you want to pursue that allows you to work around your schedule?

Some people are guided by practical matters; others let it happen organically by following their instincts.

Think about the lifestyle you want to create. Some people like to have a part of their life that’s very tied to their computer or a physical location and another part that’s very much out in the world. There are others who do all of their work online, and you might say that’s efficient – but that can be a recipe for burnout.

Know Yourself

More than passion or skillset, I think the most important ingredient for a successful career is self-knowledge. Certain types of people who feel they can only do work that matters to them, they’ll do the work they love even if no one pays them. These people are going to have a really blurry borders between “work” and “life.” They’re going to be working in their “off” time and often feel defined by their work  identity. Others value boundaries and a clear separation of work and life. They might find that the most important thing is they have a job or vocation that has clear boundaries and allows them to be off on weekends or family time. I think it’s important to know which kind of person you are.

To learn more about Marci and her work, follow her on Twitter @heymarci or visit Encore.org to learn more about the Encore.org, which is building a movement to tap the experience of those in the second half of life to improve the world.

Start Creating

If you want to overcome your limiting beliefs and accelerate progress towards your dreams, check out the short thought experiment below.

6 Limiting Beliefs Keeping You From Your Dreams — And a Thought Experiment to Overcome Them:

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