Why develop a portfolio career?

The term portfolio career is increasingly being used to describe a work-life in which you do two or more part-time jobs for different employers or to describe a career in which you don’t follow a single track or profession. In place of a linear career progression, a portfolio careerist gains experience and builds expertise, combining multiple professions, working for different employers and mixing employment with freelance contracts to make up their personal portfolio.

As we build our career stories on this site you will see that a portolio career is unique to the individual, and typically grows in line with their strengths, skills and interests. In future articles we will be considering how to build a successful portfolio career, but first of all let’s consider why do it. This will give you an insight in to the advantages and disadvantages.

If you enjoy change and variety; if you are self-motivated and organised; and if you have multiple interests, then the likelihood is that portfolio working will appeal to you. Here are examples of specific reasons to develop a portfolio career:

1. Are you at the start of your working life and want to try out a range of jobs before you focus on one specific profession or career route? This is potentially a great time to try out portfolio working.

2. Are you finding it difficult to find a full time job, and therefore need to take on available part time opportunities? Use your portfolio of work to describe this phase of your career in a positive way. You may even choose to stay with a portfolio way of working.

3. Are you mid-career and want to change direction or to enjoy a new way of working, in place of a full-time permanent job? Portfolio working can enable you to build your career in a new way and in future articles we will talk about how you can take responsibility for your own career develpment.

4. Do you want to start a business, but not give up a regular income stream in the early stages? Having a portfolio of income streams and space in the diary can help you to take a low risk route to business start-up.

5. Are you approaching retirement and want to build up a portfolio which gives you flexibility at this stage of your career?

Whatever the reason, be clear about your motivation and see it as a positive step in your career journey. Employers are increasingly wanting to recruit employees who demonstrate adaptability and flexibility. Also given the fluidity of the jobs market, having a portfolio of career experience and skills can put us in a strong position.

Before embarking on a portfolio career, speak to others who have been there and done it. Find out what they enjoy about it and the challenges. Here are a few insights based on my experience of developing a portfolio career in recent years:

I enjoy managing a portfolio of work and the variety of working on a number of projects, with some days in the office working for a regular employer and some days working for my freelance clients. I’ve just added writing to my portfolio, a surprise addition emerging from the space and time to do more creative work. Having time to do new things is great. With this however can come the demands of managing and juggling a portfolio, with often competing deadlines. The challenges also include managing a fluctuating income, coping with the lack of stability and building resilience to constant change. You definitely need to be good at networking, time management and be self-disciplined! 

Don’t just take my word for it, speak to others who have a portfolio of work and take a look at the growing amount of literature on the subject. More about this on Portfolio Career Connections soon.

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