(Bloomberg) -- I’m going to tell you a story about breakfast cereal, pop records and career change. It will, I hope, challenge the working assumption that you have to stick to one career for your whole working life. (Hint: You don’t.)

But first, let’s talk about career identity. Are you “in finance” or “in HR” or “in marketing?” We often get stuck in a mindset that what we trained for, or ended up in, defines us. Our work becomes our working identity. This would be all well and good if there was job security in it. However, this is far from the case these days.

From waves of corporate layoffs to geopolitical instability to “quiet cutting” — when an employer doesn’t fire you but reassigns you to a job  you may not like  —  it all points to a realization that reinvention may be the order of the day when it comes to managing your career.

Enter the “solopreneur,” which literally means solo entrepreneur. I view them more broadly, though, as “freelance or part time,” and really anyone for whom dropping in and out of a fixed place on a fixed schedule matters less.  

Perhaps this explains the 500 million skills LinkedIn members are adding to their profiles across the world from Australia, Brazil, India, UK and US, equating to a 56% year-on-year increase. At the launch of a new edition of her classic book Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career Herminia Ibarra, a professor at London Business School, asked two hundred of us in the audience to put up our hands if either we or someone we knew had transitioned careers, or was thinking about it. About 80% of us did so.

What can you do if you’re in this situation? As Ibarra writes in her book: “By far the biggest mistake people make when trying to change careers is to delay taking the first step until they have settled on a destination.” Her strategies for reinvention include working your networks. In another book Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader, she writes of activating your “dormant ties” — an echo of the research by sociologist Mark Granovetter in the 1970s — to what she calls experimenting with “possible selves” in which you challenge the assumptions of your old, fixed job boxes, and experiment.

That brings me to breakfast cereal. Specifically muesli: the oats, seeds, nuts and fruit cereal with a surprisingly large market. Global sales of packaged muesli are estimated to rise to $29.5 billion by 2033, up from $18.3 billion in 2023., according to research group Fact.MR.

What does this have to do with solopreneurship? Let me tell you.

Pete Paphides, a music journalist and record producer has combined his original passion with an entirely new side hustle creating and marketing a brand of muesli preferred by one of his favorite artists, Robert Forster of a band called The Go-Betweens. Paphides noticed Forster brought his own muesli to hotels when he was on tour and suggested approaching a manufacturer to produce exactly the right mix and then marketing it like a record. The result, called Spring Grain, is a clever reference to one of the band’s songs, Spring Rain.

Is this muesli better than the others? Well, the nuts are ground, and it’s vegan friendly with no added sugar. Like pop music, muesli is all a matter of taste. But what is interesting is how a music journalist like Paphides ever decided to get into something as different as manufacturing and food retail. As a side hustle to his main gig as a music critic and producer, it was strangely complimentary in terms of his skill set — branding, design and selling a product —  but also completely different.

As he wrote of the breakfast launch in The Times: “We had to send out the launch party invites twice,” he said, because everyone thought the 9:30 am start time “was a typo.”

An estimated 10% of Americans has a side hustle. The solopreneur — whether operating literally solo or in new types of partnerships —  knows these gigs are only partly about income generation; they're also about being happy. Roughly three in four US independent workers are “highly satisfied” with their work and their work-life balance. Now this job satisfaction speaks to the power of reinventing working identity. Why not sprinkle a little variety in your career? Muesli and musicians? Sounds delicious. And good for you, too.

Julia Hobsbawm is a columnist for Bloomberg Work Shift and founder of The Nowhere Office. Her Nowhere Office podcast series is here. Email: jhobsbawm@bloomberg.net

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