There's no doubt the traditional career path of staying with a single company, or a small number of employers, and rising through the ranks until you retire is no longer viable for most people.
One option that's becoming increasingly common is the portfolio career. Based on our research, this comes in two broad flavors:
1. Spending part of a career as a traditional employee and part self-employed: This arrangement is becoming very common. According to this year's survey results from the MBO Partners State of Independence study about 40% of all adult Americans have spent part of their careers self-employed and we're forecasting 50% will have by 2020.
This is why we suggest that everyone should plan for self-employment.
2. Multiple income streams from multiple jobs or tasks: This is the more classic definition of a portfolio career. Portfolio careerist Marci Alboher called people pursuing this approach "slashes" in her 2007 book One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success.
According to a Business Week article on the book, the reasons people are pursuing this type of portfolio career are:
Now that so much work can be done flexibly, portably, and virtually, it's easy to do many kinds of work in the same workweek or even workday.
Economic security no longer exists unless you create it. Having multiple income streams is one of the best ways to create stability.
People are living and working longer, creating a large canvas on which to paint a career.
We are all craving fulfillment and meaning in our careers, so it's becoming more common to combine work for security with work that feeds a passion.
I would add another key reason, which the book probably missed due to be released prior to the Great Recession. Many are pulling together different gigs because it's the only way to make enough money to make ends meet.
The rapid growth of "gig" and peer to peer commerce sites - think TaskRabbit, Gigwalk, Fiverr, Airbnb, Uber, Etsy, Elance, etc. - is making it much easier to create portfolio careers. Job polarization and the lack of good job is making them more attractive.
We expect portfolio careers to become even more common in the coming years.