How many jobs can you handle?

How many jobs can you handle?

It is possible to successfully manage a portfolio of jobs.

One of my clients, let’s call him Alan, was torn between deciding which of two sales Director job offers to accept, and came to me for advice.

I made the unusual suggestion that he accepts both. From our discussion, it was clear that neither job would stretch him, nor fortunately, the two companies were not in competition – except for his services.

Alan told each company that he could do the job in half the amount of time expected. He negotiated the amount from each company at about 80 percent of what they prepared to pay him for full-time work. He was upfront and explained the full situation to both companies. He is now happily doing two jobs – and earning more than he expected.

What Alan has done is to start his own business – running other companies sales teams. In the process, he has reduced the risk of being unemployed, provided he does his both jobs well. He is learning twice as much than if he had only one job.

He has an element of freedom that working in one job would never give him. He focuses completely on results, not a firm’s politics. He is happy and gaining confidence everyday.

Like a consultant, Alan manages a portfolio of jobs. But he is far more hands-on than a consultant. He remains responsible for the day-to-day building of the future strategy of the businesses, just as if he was working full-time.

But Alan is not devoting 100 percent of his time to either company he works for. Does this dilute his contribution? Can he be really effective?

One reason why this has worked well for Alan is because both of his employers are brave companies, seeking to make the best of the talents they have employed and wanting to develop and keep those talents. They realise that half a loaf is better than none. If either though time at the office what was decided sales, it would not work.

Are there many Singapore companies that are so progressing? Not yet, I think. In a few years’ time, it will be widely accepted as a sensible way to work. After all, we are already sharing cars, accommodation, and work spaces. Once business can reduce their rigidity, talent sharing will soon become common too.

When it comes to having multiple jobs, being focused is more useful than the ability to multitask. Obviously, Alan will still need to multitask. But more importantly, he will need to be highly organised and systematic to handle his tasks, and with a clear sense of his priorities.

Here are a few rules to being successful when managing a portfolio of jobs:

  1. Make sure each of your clients knows they are the most important. Illogical as this sound, it is vital.

Another hint, of another client being more important is fatal in an advisor-client relationship. You do not have to lie to point out the absorbing and compelling. You can also tell him the not-so-good news. But avoid making a comparison. As Cervantes said, “Comparisons are odious”.

  1. Ensure that you are in regular touch with all your clients. A visible gap in communication tells them you are preoccupied elsewhere. With technological advancements like video conferencing, instant messaging and resource-sharing platforms, remaining connected is easy. 
  2. Meet your deadlines. This is vital if you have a portfolio of jobs. It may keep you up at night, but that is the price you pay for serving several masters. 
  3. Organise yourself, and your schedule and communication so well that you never overlap clients. Never make a mistake between one client and another by sending an email to the wrong person. The best way to do this is to keep separate folder and sub folders for various clients, subjects and events. 
  4. Be clear and strict about the intellectual property of each of your clients. What you learn from one client will likely help you with the other. But you must never reveal such information, nor must there be any suggestion that you use one client’s proprietary material for another. 
  5. Keep accurate time and expenditure sheets. They are a bore, but you will need them when you renegotiate your contract. 
  6. Register yourself as a private limited company or a limited liability partnership. There are several versions of these and your circumstances will dictate which is best for you.

You need to be able to expense some of the costs of maintaining more than one job, so your income should be received by a business – not by you personally. If this is too big a step to take initially when convincing your clients that you can work for more than one of them, you can delay doing this until you are certain they will understand it and agree. But do not delay this.

  1. Get a mentor to help you in the early stages. You are starting your own business. You need to do it properly.

Follow these guidelines, and you will be a successful portfolio worker and join the ranks of the world’s entrepreneurs. Well done!

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