How to be at your best by portfolio working

Do you have the opportunity to use your natural skills and talents in your work? What does being at your best mean to you? 

Reflecting on my own career journey and noticing key themes from the work I do as a career coach has helped me to build an evolving picture of what it takes for us to be at our best in our work. And as the world of work changes and shifts, the challenge is to find our way, to take control and to embrace opportunities such as using social media, working across cultures and to redefine how we manage our careers.

One of the key ingredients of career success as a portfolio worker is to find opportunities which enable you to work in an environment or on a project where the tasks, the people and the way of doing things provides the conditions for you to be at your best and realise your potential.   

I’ve worked in organisations of varying shapes and sizes, in the private and public sectors, as an employee and as a freelancer. Each organisation has its own distinctive culture, systems and way of working. In situations where there is a good match between my skills, my preferred way of working and the goals of the organisation I find it very easy to work at my full potential and there is a good energy. On other occasions where there is a misalignment the opposite is usually the outcome, with lower levels of motivation and constantly coming across blocks to doing a good job.

Each time you take on a new contract be flexible and invest time to understand what is important to the people you are working with. Adapt and flex your style to fit in with your employer or client’s way of doing things. Through reflecting on what does work for you and what doesn’t, you will be able to develop your career strategy by finding and attracting work in line with your strengths, skills and preferences. My work currently involves a combination of freelance and salaried work and this works well for me. It gives me the chance to enjoy being part of a team in a large organisation, alongside a chunk of time working more independently taking on freelance contracts. This is a win-win situation of benefit to both me and the clients and employers I work for.

So, how can you create the right conditions to be at your best and realise your potential?  This does not have to mean working freelance or setting up a business, it could also just mean that you find a job where the portfolio of tasks gives you the scope to realise your potential and enjoy your work.

Here are some tips and questions to consider:

– What is important to you? What do you want from your work life? Do you enjoy variety and change or routine and structure? Do you like working independently or part of a team? What is your attitude to risk and uncertainty? What is your financial situation?

– What does being at your best in your work look, sound and feel like? Is there a metaphor which can describe this for you? More about metaphor in future blog posts.

 – What are your skills, strengths and talents? Notice what you notice and identify key themes. Reflect and review by keeping a journal and speaking to others to find out what they think you are good at.

– Set yourself short and long term goals to build your portfolio in line with your preferred way of working. Remember it’s a journey and the key to success is to keep learning and building on successes. 

– If a step such as setting up your own business or working freelance is not for you at the moment, think creatively about how in your current job you can be at your best. How can this support a longer term career strategy?

– If you are looking for a new job, ask yourself “Will this job and the culture of the organisation enable me to be at my best?” The more time you can spend understanding what drives you the better prepared you will be for your job search and to perform well at interviews.

Future blog posts will develop the key themes in this blog and if you want to find out more about how a coaching conversation can help you to get on track contact for a chat. We don’t charge for an initial chat and there is no obligation. If you want to share your portfolio career story on this blog please contact

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