What Is "Job Cobbling"?

A path for people who refuse to choose just one.

Posted Oct 25, 2019

One of my favorite career thought leaders is Barbara Sher, author of Refuse To Choose and I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was. When I first read her books years ago, it was like stumbling upon a world of like-minded people I never knew existed. People who "refuse to choose" just one job title or career path for their entire lifetime.

These folks have interests so varied they can't possibly imagine focusing on just one. Maybe they've tried, but their curiosity and/or attention span simply won't allow it. Maybe they've felt like a failure as a result. Scattered. Unfocused. A mess. If they're like me, they at times have probably wished for some epiphany to strike that would allow them to focus. To "just pick something already!"

The real epiphany for me came when I deeply examined how I operate and accepted what's likely not going to change. That the 9 to 5 office grind just doesn't work for me. Numerous clients have come to me over the years with a similar realization and they've asked about cobbling. Nope, not fixing shoes. Job cobbling is the concept of piecing together various income-generating and curiosity-stimulating endeavors instead of picking just one long-term career path. Cobbling comes with perks like flexible scheduling, flexible location, daily variety, and being one's own boss.

The components of cobbling may include:

  • Gigging (rideshare driver, performer, nanny, dog walker, errand runner, event staffing)
  • Temping (office help, temp agency placement, vacation/medical/maternity fill-in)
  • Freelancing & Moonlighting (writing, event photography, event promotion, art)
  • Consulting & Coaching
  • Virtual employment
  • Seasonal employment
  • Self-employment
  • Travel & On-location jobs
  • Online selling, Work from home

Job Cobbling can be appealing, but its drawbacks and realities must be thoughtfully considered. Cobbling can be exhausting and depleting for people who don't like the hustle of frequently having to look for new work and new clients. Cobbling isn't a good choice for people whose health and mental health benefits from maintaining a consistent schedule or location. The practical aspects of cobbling must also be explored, such as long-term viability, access to healthcare insurance, retirement planning, and planning for financial or physical setbacks.

One might consider a cobbling hybrid, such as maintaining a part-time job that offers benefits, yet allows the scheduling flexibility to take gigs on the side.

I once met a woman who wrote articles for the news and communications department of a large university. She told me the lifespan of her jobs tends to be about five years before she gets bored and moves on to the next thing—always full-time employment with benefits, but always something stimulating enough to keep her around a few years. She had long ago accepted that a singular long-term career path just didn't hold her attention.

When considering job cobbling as a path, that becomes an important starting point: Acceptance. One must thoroughly explore the realities of cobbling and deeply explore the personality traits that make it feel appealing. One must come to an acceptance of who they are at their core, what they need in order to feel viable, fulfilled, and supported and then decide if job cobbling is worth exploring.