Embrace the inner slasher to thrive; We should abandon the concept of a job being permanent

June 25, 2013 4:12 pm

Embrace the slasher within to thrive

By Luke Johnson

We should abandon the concept of a job being permanent

Aslasher is not just a type of horror movie, but also a new category of entrepreneur. It describes someone with a portfolio career – a photographer/journalist perhaps, or a programmer/property developer. I believe it is the way ahead for this generation.

After all, most of us will need to work and earn for 50 years or so because of rising life expectancy and lack of pension provision. To pursue a single-track career for half a century risks boredom – which I think of as almost the greatest enemy. Moreover,technological change means many roles will become redundant – necessitating retraining in a new vocation anyway.And a 30-year retirement is a recipe for stagnation, idleness and misery. The only solution is to embrace the concept of life-long learning and a slasher existence of combined careers almost from the beginning.

Of course, many specialist fields need complete focus on a single profession: it’s difficult to be a part-time heart surgeon. And I’m not suggesting that a founder running a growing business with 500 staff should have lots of other jobs as well.

Meanwhile, certain professions naturally involve a range of activities: academics, for example, with teaching, researching, writing and so on all part of the package.

But obsessing about one thing for 25 years or more can be wearing. In the meantime, it’s sensible to prepare for a second act, which will probably involve several part-time activities. That is the nature of the modern world. The record numbers of self-employed and part-timers in the workforce reflect these shifts.

Freelance and part-time work can make sense for both employers and employees. Companies increasingly seek to contract out tasks, and avoid taking on permanent staff. Traditional job security and final salary pensions have all but disappeared, at least in the private sector. We should abandon the concept of a job being permanent, and instead see each position almost as an assignment.

Individuals who contract can enjoy flexibility and variety, while being less dependent on one organisation for their entire livelihood. I never liked being defined exclusively by the company where I worked.

Managing a portfolio career takes some juggling, as it is by no means for everyone. You may even get accused of being a “jack of all trades and master of none”. But online, mobile communications mean you can stay connected and multitask in a way that was previously impossible.

As I’ve written recently, it is no longer necessary to attend an office in many organisations since working remotely is becoming increasingly common. A majority of new businesses are started at home as a side activity to a day job. Some will become a full-time and growing pursuit, but others will remain modest enterprises that operate as an income supplement.

Many entrepreneurs go plural after selling their business and realising capital. They take up several appointments as a part-time or non-executive director, mostly in companies in which they are an investor, or sometimes serve as a trustee at charities that interest them. The hope is that they can cross-fertilise their knowledge between the various companies where they have ownership. I’ve had parallel involvements with a number of different businesses for some years. Depending upon the circumstances, one might contribute as an adviser, mentor, steward, custodian, referee or consultant.

Albert Camus wrote about the “wager of our generation”. I think our great wager is a bet that career structures in the 21st century must be more flexible and project-based. The old model of work is dying. Countries such as Spain and Italy that have rigid employment systems suffer massive levels of worklessness and poor productivity as a consequence.

To wait passively for the perfect job is to court unemployment and disappointment. Instead, we must each construct a series of overlapping initiatives, using our skills and networks, which can deliver diverse experiences and probably a higher standard of living. Such a way of life can be more stressful and appear riskier; but it helps make us more resourceful and usually excludes irritations such as routine, commuting and office politics.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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