Earn Careers

Why a Linear Career Path is Dead (And What To Do Instead)

Chelsey Zhu  |  April 26, 2023

A linear career path isn't always possible in the post-pandemic job market. Here’s how you can succeed by diversifying your career portfolio.

A core step to building wealth is creating a diversified investment portfolio. By spreading out your investments, you reduce your risk of losing money while still being able to reap the rewards of the stock market — a win-win, right? And yet, diversification is the exact opposite of what you’re told to do when it comes to your job. You’re supposed to go to school, pick one thing to study that’s going to define your career, and then work your way up in the same industry until you make it to the top. But life usually doesn’t turn out to be so straightforward. You might get laid off, take a break to raise your kids, or realize that the career you chose in your 20s just doesn’t match up with who you are in your 40s or 50s. 

Christina Wallace argues that in all of those instances, you can reduce risk — or even profit — by having different kinds of job experience in your portfolio. Christina has worked as a theater director, a nonprofit arts administrator, a tech entrepreneur, a writer, and most recently, a lecturer at Harvard Business School. Over the years, she realized that having a not-so-linear resume wasn’t a weakness, but a strength. She wanted to help other people build their own diverse career portfolios, so she wrote a book: The Portfolio Life: How to Future-Proof Your Career, Avoid Burnout, and Build A Life Bigger Than Your Business Card.”

Christina tells us why she believes a linear career path is no longer possible for many people, and why committing yourself to a single full-time job is the riskiest move you can make. She argues that major disruptions to the working world — from the Great Recession to, most recently, the pandemic — will continue to upend our career plans, making it crucial for us to build a portfolio of different skills we can rely on. 

We walk through the three portfolio models you can use to shape your career: moonlighters, zigzaggers, and multihyphenates. (You’ll love learning about these new terms just as much as we did!) Christina explains how to determine which model works best for your life, and how you can take the first step towards expanding your skill set by adding a side hustle, transitioning to a different field, or balancing several passions at once. We also talk about how you can make all of it work financially by understanding your expenses and planning ahead.

And if you have questions: Maybe you’re looking to expand your portfolio, but wary of the potential time commitment… or you’re unsure of how to broach the subject with your family or your boss. We’ve got you. Christina shares her best advice for persuading your employer that projects outside of your main job add to your value, and balancing your workload so you can still make time for yourself and your relationships. Her biggest message — you don’t have to do it all, all of the time. 

In Mailbag, a listener asks how she can adjust her financial plan so she can afford to buy a house in a high-COL area with a good school district. Another listener wonders how she can prioritize saving for several goals at once, from emergency savings to her kid’s college education. In Thrive, how pets can improve your mental health. 

P.S. The next session of HerMoney’s personal finance coaching program is about to begin! FinanceFixx can help you build a budget, create a plan to pay off debt, form good money habits, and more. The next session starts May 16th. You can learn more or sign up here.

This podcast is proudly supported by Edelman Financial Engines. Let our modern wealth management advice raise your financial potential. Get the full story at EdelmanFinancialEngines.com. Sponsored by Edelman Financial Engines – Modern wealth planning. All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

The HerMoney podcast is supported by      Edelman
All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

Next Article: