Wed. Event Tune-up: The Side Hustle

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OK, so this is a day late. Yesterday was a day to read. The latest book was Mash Up! By Kogan Page. Using his thoughts and channeling the various thoughts of Gary Vaynerchuk, Beal Boortz, Jose Castillo, Robbie Britton, and a few other great mentors, let’s talk about the disappearing line between a single, fulltime occupation and the dawn of what I call the Segmented Specialist.

What is a Segmented Specialist? They are an individual who possesses a disparate set of skills, but uses them in a way that ties what they do into a potent package that lets them pursue their passions across a variety of projects and jobs.

The traditional role of fulltime and parttime employment are disappearing. Yes, you still see people who look at employment through the prism of fulltime and parttime. Some big companies still see their jobs through that narrow focus. However, that dynamic has been changing for several years, thanks to the mobile phone and the Internet. People are creating opportunities without giving up what they have, or are chucking it all to go after something new and fulfilling.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is why the notion of a fulltime DJ vs. a parttime DJ needs to go away. From the perspective of the Segmented Specialist, this does not exist. The same applies to event planners, caterers, photographers, and scores of others who have taken a serious look at their skills and assembled them into something that shines in the marketplace. Stepping outside of the events arena, let’s look at a few examples of the Segmented Specialist:

- George: for years, George was a traffic reporter for various radio stations in a major market. He flew in the helicopter and anchored from the studios. After the last change in management, George was laid off. He retired and moved to a forest in the south. Getting bored, he found a station that wanted him to report traffic and let him do so from the basement of his house. He did so until another management change. During his time of employment, he developed a passion for computers, weather, and blogging. While he no longer broadcasts traffic reports, he leveraged his network of friends, including a high-profile weather forecaster, and his skills in computers and blogging to set up several blogs for weather forecasting. Recently, he has been contacted by a broadcast station who would like to hire him for broadcasting weather reports. He is passionate about weather, traffic, broadcasting, and sharing information with others. On the surface, his writing, broadcasting, knowledge of computers, weather, and knowledge of running blogs have nothing in common. He identified a central theme to tie his passions together and uses these projects to leverage his passions.

- Tom: Ever since Tom was a kid, he loved to tinker, take apart, and fix things. Anything motorized was not safe from his curiosity. Being the standout student he was, his college choice was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. When he graduated, Polaroid hired him as a senior product design engineer. He had lots of free time at night and began to teach himself guitar, bass, and organ. He already had skills as a classically trained pianist from lessons as a kid. By day, he worked on multimedia projects and new methods to deliver them, and worked on music and sound engineering at night. He was very successful with all, having developed skills for music, engineering, multimedia production, sound engineering, racking up almost three dozen patents along his journey. All have been combined into the signature sound of his band, Boston.

- Scott: For years, Scott worked behind the scenes at the phone company. He was a technology guy who helped design and maintain networks. In his free time, he doodled characters based on people he met at work and eventually started to draw cartoons featuring them in various situations, all based on what he observed at work. As his drawings and storylines improved with practice and time, his work was starting to be published in papers and magazines. Eventually, his life as a cartoonist allowed him to leave the job at the phone company so he could spend more time on his cartooning and writing books. His skills at the telephone company, storytelling, and drawing let him become one of the most successful cartoonists since Charles Schultz authored Peanuts.

As you can see by the examples, each one has used their skills to create something unique and owned by them. You can do the same. A quick way to work towards determining your mix would be something like this:

- List your skills (ex. DJ, computer repair, writer)

- Break them down to see where they overlap. While breaking them down, is there something that jumps out as fresh and exciting that you would love to explore and develop as a better skill?

- After looking at your overlap, pick the most unique thing from each skill that does not overlap.

- The overlaps let you power all of your skills, the unique items are the disparate mix that lets you be unique.

If you are at a day job, working just forty hours per week and not doing anything else, it may be time to identify your passion. Do you like gardening? Collecting stamps? Staining furniture? Look at what you are passionate about and set about to grow that passion. It may require some education, financial investment, late nights in the garage, but it needs to be seeded and developed. Apple Computers started in a garage. Disney Animation started in a garage. Amazon started in a garage.

The days of fitting into one role are melting away. You have a set of skills that only you possess. How are you tying them together? Remember our example of DJ, computer repair, writer? What if you turned it into an automated way to weave music into online storytelling, then sold it to Microsoft for a cool billion dollars?

Just remember, everything starts as nothing, especially your side hustle. You are a Segmented Specialist.
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