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Sophie Wade Headshot

Your Diversified Career in 2014: Own It. Work It. Love It.

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Compassionate Eye Foundation/Justin Pumfrey via Getty Images
Compassionate Eye Foundation/Justin Pumfrey via Getty Images

It's a New Year. It's a milestone moment. It's time.

Whether it's a solution or your resolution, I believe we are all ready to recognize the new career paradigm and name it, allowing ourselves to maximize its -- and our -- potential.

The Millennials began to redefine the established 'linear, continuous and compounding' career model when they were graduating from college and felt, and were, let down by the establishment's broken promise of employment. The annually-anticipated offers of traditional lifetime or institutional jobs were practically non-existent.

When only part-time or project work was available instead, the Millennials made the most of the fragmented employment reality they faced with the optimistic exuberance of youth. They accepted it as the new 'normal' and, when the generations before them (us) were confused by the makeshift, almost patchwork, approach, they embraced it as theirs.

The Millennials have been called "entitled" and "lazy." Really?

Perhaps they were actually just trying to adjust to a new working environment that was unusually opportunistic and unstructured, looking to highlight and leverage the benefits of their new circumstances and downplay the hardships. I believe the Millennials benefitted from perspectives less hindered by legacy ideas of what careers had to look like while being prompted to think creatively by economic circumstances.

So, what other insights did they glean through their challenges that we may have also acknowledged internally, but not felt permitted to enjoy and therefore also not tried to optimize yet? Have we really been faulting them for their enlightened recognition that working less allows more balance among one's activities and time to enjoy more of the quality of life -- and that is a good thing? Really?!

Own It:

It's 2014. Let's own our new work reality too, starting by giving it a name.

Without a name, it seems somewhat nebulous. Driven by the economic hardship and uncertainty of recent years, individuals' pursuit of a variety of jobs, projects and self-created opportunities has felt somewhat random, even chaotic. In truth, people have been innovative about their employment circumstances, whatever time horizon they have felt able to work with.

Without a name, it feels harder to bring into focus, define and act upon strategically. However, just as a mass of acquired companies can sound like it was cobbled together haphazardly, once it's called a 'conglomerate,' entities can be grouped and aligned with a possible strategic direction. Its potential and thence value are increased multifold.

So, let's give the new career paradigm form and definition.

It's about the Diversified Career -- a multi-disciplinary, multi-stream or modular model. It is flexible, may be non-continuous and builds up and upon multiple skills and experiences over time.

Work It:

Now, let's make the most of it! With a name comes form and legitimacy. It is easier to confidently admit to a defined career path and work proactively on it and with it. So, how can you develop your diversified career to maximum benefit?

Reframe your working experience and think about your past and potential future moves strategically, rather than as disconnected elements. In the same way that diversification of a stock portfolio mitigates risk, diversification of your skills and experiences can give you important adaptability in an uncertain job climate. Realize that your value is less narrowly defined and limiting and your talents are more easily applied differently or transferred elsewhere.

Take advantage of businesses that are emerging to assist and encourage the coordinated development and optimization of different diversified careers. For example, there are new platforms for project work and flex positions and hubs for phone-based consultations (where you can be contributing or receiving).

Companies are also realizing these benefits by leveraging workplace flexibility and introducing cross-training programs. Opportunities are developing for employees to emphasize or develop different strengths.

Or, your diversification might have taken you to develop your own business, participating in the recent explosion of entrepreneurial energy. Enable your business to grow by benefitting from the employment evolution with flexible resources - quality executives accessible on your terms - as well as the diversification of financing with crowd-funding.

Better understanding of different ideas, styles and paths will be developed, depending on varying situations, expertise and industries involved, and more. Now you realize your breadth of reach, what else or what more could you do - now or in the future?

Love It:

Without a rigid, linear, pre-defined path that you are aiming for or to get back on, you have more choices. You can enjoy a more accommodating route or network of paths ahead and better manage your existing professional AND personal commitments, obligations AND desires.

Yes, you can work purposefully to incorporate things you want to do AND be better positioned to deal with the succession of dramas and crises that is the reality of our lives... and reduce the impact of each. I am NOT saying it will be easy or perfect. But, looking at it in a coordinated way, you can make it all make more sense, build some give in the system, go further, have more options when you need them and enjoy the ride a whole lot more.

Honestly, my own experience over the last few days has been the strongest vindication yet of the power of diversification and need for flexibility: After Sandy's lingering devastation, the Hercules storm's impact has probably reached further afield and its disruption to personal plans and businesses has been staggering. However, least affected have been those who are accustomed to working remotely and or flexibly, and those who able to help out in other areas as their skills cover multiple areas. How did you fare?

A diversified career -- a career with choices, with flexibility -- is a managed career. It requires attention, thought and discipline.

Live it. Love it. It's yours.