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Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and the World Economic Forum blog. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated[…]

Some of the most innovative ideas and products in the world come from interdisciplinary collaborations. So what if you could become a one-stop interdisciplinary shop for bright, outside-the-box ideas? According to marketing expert Dorie Clark, that’s what happens naturally when you start to build a side project or immerse yourself in a new hobby—even if it’s just a few hours per week. Devoting yourself to learning how to build an app, run an e-commerce site, sell to clients, or create an artisan product expands your skills portfolio and makes you more valuable to your employer—plus the additional revenue streams will afford you some income cushioning should something happen to your full-time job (touch wood). Not only does your gusto show initiative, but it could allow you to solve problems from a perspective that is unique among your colleagues. Beefing up your skills is an entrepreneurial tactic that can transform your career and income potential. Case in point, Clark shares the story of how one nurse rose up the ranks like lightning to become the communications director at a major New York City hospital. Make your hobbies pay off and become professionally independent. Dorie Clark’s new book is Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive.

Dorie Clark: Even if you don’t work for yourself, even if you have a job inside a company and you love it, that’s what you want to keep doing, I would actually encourage everyone to think about how they can develop multiple income streams in their own life and in their own business.
When I started my professional career I was a journalist and I had been doing it for about a year, and one day I got called into the HR office and I got laid off without warning. And they gave me a week’s severance pay. Technically I had actually already worked Monday so it was four days severance pay. And I somehow had to figure out what to do with myself. And that, at age 22, was my first realization that the things that we take for granted, the things that we think are stable, are not always.

If you take the initiative to develop multiple income streams in your business, if you even just spend a couple of hours a week developing some kind of a side project for yourself, there are a host of benefits. First of all, heaven forbid something happens with your day job, but if it does, you’ve been cultivating something that, over time, you’ve hopefully been able to create to bring in additional revenue which creates a cushion and gives you something else that you might be able to pivot toward. That’s great.

But let me make another case. Even if you feel 100 percent sure that things are good with your employer and are going to stay that way, when you do entrepreneurial experimentation on your own time you are making yourself more valuable to your company.

In my book, 'Entrepreneurial You', I actually tell the story of a guy named Lenny Achan. Now Lenny was somebody that I got to know because I was consulting for his employer. At the time he used to work for Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. And I kept hearing about him. People were sort of whispering about him because he had risen so rapidly in the organization. And so when I met him I was curious. I said, "Lenny, what’s your story? Tell me."

And it turns out he had started his career as a nurse at the hospital, and by the time I met him he was running communications for the hospital. That is not a traditional career path. The vast majority of nurses are not doing that. But the way he was able to dramatically transform his career and his income was that he had become interested, on the side, on his own time, with apps. And so he learned what he need to learn in order to create a couple of apps on the side. His boss found out about it, called him into the office one day. Lenny was worried because he thought maybe he had violated some policy he wasn’t aware of. But instead of firing him or punishing him his boss said, Lenny, I hear you’ve made some apps. And Lenny said, well yes, it’s true. I did. And the boss said, we need someone to run social media for the hospital. I think it should be you.

And so he got that promotion and he did so well with it, ultimately they gave him the entire communications portfolio. When you are learning and experimenting on your own time, you are able to pursue your interests, deepen your passions, gain more skills and then bring all of that back to work for your employer. When they see that you’ve taken the initiative to do that, it sets you apart. The vast majority of people are not doing that and it ultimately is likely to lead to you being rewarded even more in your current job and making you that much more secure.