Creating an online profile to help develop your career

I’ve just added another story to the Portfolio Career Stories page, this time about Katie Barnett who has recently graduated with a PhD from the University of Birmingham. Katie is developing her career by building up a portfolio of work in line with her skills, interests and ambitions.

When reading Katie’s story I was struck by how effectively Katie has used the website to create a personal home page for herself. You can see in an instance her key areas of expertise: Researcher, Writer, Lecturer.

You can read Katie’s “” profile here: and her career story if you click on the Portfolio Career Stories tab on this site.

Seeing Katie’s profile has got me thinking about how we can best create an effective online profile.

Do we choose just one channel for example a LinkedIn profile or an page, or do we need multiple ways to communicate our key messages?

I guess as with all marketing strategies it starts with a clear idea of what you want to achieve and who your target audience is. Whether you go for an organic way of building up a profile as you go along, or whether you have a well-thought out strategy at the outset – one thing is for sure, the opportunity to use online profiles to help develop our careers is big.

Just relying on a CV and traditional ways of seeking out and applying for jobs or building a portfolio and freelance career will without doubt limit your options.

If you’ve got examples to share about how you’ve created an online professional profile and what’s working well, do share your ideas and comments with us.

Creative Space – creating space

I’m delighted to share a guest blog post by Katie Barnett. Katie recently took part in my career well-being research project and here she shares some of her thoughts about why a portfolio approach is good for her well-being. Over to Katie for:

Creative Space – creating space

Keys, wallet, phone. (And did I remember to close the bathroom window? And I should definitely buy more milk on the way home.) I have a pretty standard checklist any time I leave the house, but somewhere on my person you’ll also find a notebook and pen. It helps with remembering to buy the milk; it’s also incredibly useful when, inevitably, inspiration strikes on the train, and I’m left scrabbling to scribble something down before the idea is lost. This could be any number of things: an idea for an article, a thought about how best to teach a class of teenage girls about advertising culture, a way of resolving a thorny plot tangle in the children’s novel I have been writing (and re-writing) for the past three years. I have learnt, over time, that this is how I work best: many projects, many thoughts, many notebooks full of seemingly random, sometimes interconnected thoughts. The challenge for me most recently has been working out ways in which I can incorporate this need for creative space into my own career.

Recently, I was interviewed by Jayne as part of her on-going research into portfolio careers and their impact on well-being. Jayne’s questions really got me thinking about my own motivations for pursuing a portfolio of work at this point in my career, and how those motivations relate to my own desire for balance and creativity.

I started working portfolio out of necessity, after leaving a full time job to focus on completing my PhD. I began to take on a variety of work alongside my research, starting with a job in a distribution centre and moving on to a number of different part-time teaching roles, and a variety of work for a higher education careers service, including CV advice, a research project, and workshop delivery. What began as a necessity has gradually become a choice, however; having recently finished my PhD, I have designed the next stage of my career around the appeal of developing and maintaining a portfolio of roles.

I think ‘designed’ is an important word here, as often the assumption is made that a portfolio career is a response to having failed to find more ‘secure’ work. For me, designing my career around this idea of a portfolio is important, particularly with regards to my own well-being. When I was interviewed by Jayne, she told me that only 20% of people enjoy what they do every day, according to research by the Gallup organisatin, and for me having a portfolio of work is one way of ensuring that I fall within that 20%.

Part of this revolves around doing things I enjoy: my portfolio is increasingly focused on teaching and working with students, particularly in further and higher education. However, working in this way also allows me to carve out time and space for my own creative projects, and this is something that I value immensely. Some of these projects relate to my own research interests; others are creative writing projects, including the children’s novel I have been working on in my spare time. Maintaining a balance between these different jobs and projects takes some effort, and isn’t always straightforward; however, creating space for these things is one of my priorities when it comes to building my own career. Having time to work on my writing, or pursue my own research projects, makes me happy. I have also found that it improves my creativity in my other roles—something that has been particularly valuable as I have taken on more teaching work and have been challenged with thinking up innovative approaches to a range of subjects in order to keep different sets of students interested and engaged.

The idea of making space in your work week for your own creative endeavours may seem like something of a luxury, but I believe it is crucial to my own well-being, and keeps me focused on the things that I am passionate about. Inspiration might still strike halfway around the supermarket, or squished in a corner on a busy commuter train, but by actively creating space in my working life to explore and work on a variety of projects, I feel like I am taking steps to recognise my own well-being as central to my career development.

If only I could remember the milk.

Authenticity and Coaching

This is a short blog post for the Coaching Connections session tomorrow on authenticity. At the start of the session we will be getting some clarity about what authenticity means to us as coaches and in our work.

Here are three quotes which will be shared to get us thinking:

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else” Judy Garland

“Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not” Arnold Beisser

“This is authenticity; being ourselves without fear or compromise in all circumstances, at all times” Neil Crofts

Clarity is the first step of a five step team coaching model called CEFAR, which I designed a couple of years ago, to help individuals learn from peers, share ideas and gain new perspectives. At the workshop tomorrow we’ll be moving through the five steps of the model from Clarity to Engaging, then to Feedback and finally Action and Review.

More about authenticity and the CEFAR model after our Coaching Connections session tomorrow!

Well-being 2013

photo-5I am speaking this week at the Well-Being 2013 Conference in Birmingham and I will be sharing with conference colleagues the emerging themes from initial research “Designing your Career with well-being at the heart”. For further context take a read of the April blog post about the research and I hope you enjoy this mini update, which gives a flavour of what I will be sharing at the conference based on the small number of research interviews which have been completed.

Is a portfolio career for me?

From the initial interviews the following themes and strengths are being reported by individuals working in a portfolio way.

Individuals with a portfolio of jobs and income streams:

– enjoy the variety in their work
– have a passion and interest in their work, some also reported their work is
very much linked to their purpose (more about this in future blogs)
– enjoy and are able to work in an independent and autonomous way
– have good organisational skills
– are self-motivated

Spreading the risk

One of the potential stresses of a portfolio way of working is that your income fluctuates and you don’t have the perceived security of a “permanent” job. A strategy portfolio workers seem to find helpful is to have at least one income stream which offers some continuity and stability, this could be a part-time permanent job or a retainer style contract. Initial findings indicate that this has a positive impact on well-being and limits the risk compared to working on a fully freelance basis.

Loving what you do each day

According to research by Rath and Harter “loving what you do each day” is an essential element of an individual’s well-being. Initial emerging themes of my research point to the fact that individuals who design their work life through piecing together multiple jobs and income streams, build their portfolio by finding and attracting work which allows them to do what they love to do each day.

Working portfolio is however not without challenges and initial findings indicate that people working in a portfolio way would welcome support in the following areas to help them stay well and develop a portfolio career for the long term:

– peer support and being part of a community to provide a sense of
– organisation and time management skill development to help manage boundaries
and efficient ways or working
– self promotion and marketing strategies support
– financial advice, particularly at start up stage

I will write another blog soon following the Well-Being Conference at Birmingham City University, which I am sure will help me to reflect on the research to date and move on to the next stage. Thanks to everyone who has taken part or who has supported the research to date.

Escaping Metaphors

I read with great interest Jayne’s piece about ‘spinning plates’ which reminded me about the Magic of Metaphor. Metaphors are so pervasive in how we speak, how we think and reason, they are a great resource we can tap into when we want to achieve an objective. Metaphors help us organise complex sets of thoughts, feelings and behaviour and they help us understand, reason about and explain abstract concepts. 

Take some time to really listen to a news broadcast and you will hear lots of metaphors.  Reading more of the blogs on Jayne’s site you will also see metaphors escaping all over the place – ‘moving towards’ and ‘moving back’ and ‘spreading happiness’.  Each metaphor helps you create a great mind picture doesn’t it?

I have coached clients using metaphor to help them achieve sustainable change and its enlightening how a changing metaphor can lead to a sustained change for the individual. Why is that?  It’s the emotion attached to the metaphor that’s important to leverage change. It follows then that the most powerful metaphors are our own so become aware of and develop yours rather than try to ’use’ someone else’s. 

Here’s an example to get you going…

If to develop a portfolio career you need to be ‘determined’ for example, what’s it like when you’re extremely determined?  Remember to develop your own but let’s say it’s like a ‘star burning bright in the sky’. You could develop this by asking yourself, that’s a star burning bright like what? Where is the star burning bright? And allow yourself to feel the emotion that you attach to ‘the star burning bright’ as you imagine, verbalise and describe your metaphor. It’s important to be instinctive so don’t over think it just let it happen. 

When you are aware of your own metaphors you can start to develop them further and enhance the positive emotion attached to them. When you have become aware of your many metaphors we call this your metaphor landscape.

You can develop and explore the qualities of your metaphor to intensify the emotion there a relationship between star and bright? Or between star and burning? Or burning and bright? You might discover that the brighter the light the more determined you are? What does that tell you? What happens when the star burns brighter? How can you influence the star to burn brighter’?

As you develop your metaphors, you can anchor yourself to the positive emotion which in the simplest terms means thinking of your metaphor and feeling the positive emotion when you need to… that might be attending an interview, making a presentation, tendering for a contract or whatever. Its simple really … well it does take practice but it can become simple if you apply yourself.

Why and how does this work? 

We understand and learn best when engaging our left (logical) and right (creative, imaginative) brains sometimes referred to as whole brain learning. Using metaphor allows us to engage both brains and also our unconscious minds; it raises our self-understanding and self-awareness and is a source of creativity and development.

Our behaviours are driven by our thoughts, feelings and conditioning. The more positive messages (thoughts, feelings) you give to your conscious mind translates into your unconscious mind and like a library you build up a bank of positivity and that’s important for pretty much anything you want to do –did you notice two metaphors slipping out there ? – ‘library’ and ‘bank’ – using these helped to picture the concept didn’t it? (oops there’s another one escaping ‘picture’ ) 

So if we use metaphor naturally then why start to think about it and develop it? Well did you ever hear anyone say someone was being too positive, too self- aware or too creative? 

How could you use this to develop a portfolio career? 

You may choose to develop your metaphor for success for each element of your portfolio or for your portfolio as a whole. A good friend of mine uses the metaphor of a rope with each coloured strand interweaved and representing each strand of his business, supporting each element to make a strong, durable rope. There are some great messages behind this… strength, durability, support, variety interlinked, common purpose, resistance to break.

Why not draw your metaphors and display them on your office wall as a visual reminder. You might incorporate them into your business name or a logo – maybe as part of your brand and a website. The options are really limitless. I do hope you enjoy your metaphorical journey (oops another escaped there didn’t it?) 

If you want to learn more about metaphor here are some texts I have drawn from in writing this:

Lawley, J. and Tompkins, P. (2000), Metaphors in Mind Transformation through Symbolic Modelling, London: Developing Company Press

Geary, J. (2011) I is Another – The Secret Life of Metaphor and how it shapes the way we see the world, New York, USA: Harper Collins

Sullivan, W. & Rees, J. (2008) Clean Language Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds, Wales: Crown House Publishing Company Ltd

Thank you to Irene Bayliss for this great guest post. Irene runs her own coaching and training business called EyeJBee Ltd – Coaching and Development Solutions and uses innovative techniques, models and strategies to improve business profitability through people performance. She has designed a coaching model for lasting change called Sustain ™ which is based around metaphor and aligned with individual values and personal beliefs.

Designing your career with well-being at the heart


In July I am speaking at a Well-Being Conference in Birmingham on the topic of career well-being, and will be sharing some of the thinking I’ve been doing about the changing priorities for career management over recent years.

Do you have a portfolio career? Do your want to volunteer to take part in the research?

To prepare for the conference I will be researching how individuals incorporate personal well-being in to their career management and how these aspects are defined. The focus will be on portfolio careers and will consider individuals’ personal motivations and priorities for their career management.

I want to involve two key groups in the research:

– graduates working portfolio, either by choice or as a temporary solution in place of a full time job
– professionals working portfolio, who are mid career and have changed the way they work and manage their career in recent years


I have personally made the change from a work life which was ok and ticking along quite nicely, to design a way of working which has allowed me to redefine what success means to me, to blossom and use my strengths and to do interesting work. It’s been a positive experience but not without challenge and uncertainty along the way. I see this project as a useful way to build on my own experience and my work with coaching clients, by considering the experience of individuals including the positive impact on their well-being and the challenges.

So, what do we mean by well-being? Here is a definition from the book “Wellbeing – The five essential elements” written by Tom Rath and Jim Harter:

“Wellbeing is about the combination of our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities. Most importantly, it’s about how these five elements interact’.

The project will build on published research in the areas of well-being, engagement at work, positive psychology and the changing face of career management. Through speaking to individuals about their experience of working portfolio, we will explore the impact on their well-being, summarise key themes emerging and make recommendations for supporting individuals as they embark on more flexible career pathways. I hope to continue the research by considering implications for employers and educators.

Do you want to get involved?

I am keen to interview graduates and mid-career professionals who are based in the Midlands and who have multiple jobs or work freelance. You can choose to simply take part in the research with no sharing of your information beyond the contribution to the research paper. Or if you wish to use this as an opportunity to share your story on the blog, we will be creating a number of case studies from the research. Could be a great way to raise your profile and promote your work!
If you are interested to take part please e-mail:

If you are a researcher or careers professional doing work in this area I’d love to hear from you also.

Research outcomes

Updates from the project “Designing your career with well-being at the heart” will be shared on this blog. We will also publish case studies and ultimately build a bank of resources for portfolio workers. A paper to share the first stage of the research results will be presented at: Well-Being 2013 at Birmingham City University in July 2013.

I’d like to thank friends and colleagues for encouraging me to start this piece of research and to share it in the form of a blog as I go along. Thanks in particular to Doreen Yarnold one of my mentors, who encouraged me to just keep writing blog posts even though I wasn’t sure where Portfolio Career Connections was heading. It’s great to start this research with 18 months of blogging behind us.

Just Space to gain perspective

Portfolio Career?
By Claire B Jenkins of One to One Interview Coaching

Portfolio careers can take many shapes and forms, and here Claire talks about how a short term, 3 week project helped her to gain new perspectives, taking time out before setting up her new business as an interview coach.

See how Claire uses the opportunity to find out more about the skills and strengths she brings to her work. Having some fun and earning money along the way!

Over to Claire:

I can still smell those bags of dirty washing as they ‘steamed’ in the boiling hot cab of the transit I was driving in the summer heat of 2011… How did I get here?

The pungent odour was the New Zealand Women’s cricket team kit. And I was their Tour Liaison Manager for 3 weeks on behalf of the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) – after a suggestion by my “other half” to take the work while I formulated exactly what my business model would be for the Job Interview Coaching.

If I’d made a list of why I thought I could do this it might’ve been something like this: I’m good at project managing and persuading people to do things. I played county cricket for 14 years and umpired hockey to international standard. I love sport enough to do a degree and postgrad diploma in Recreation Management… So, why wouldn’t I want to spend 24/7 “on call” to ensure things ran smoothly for the “White Ferns” while playing in the Quadrangular series against England, Australia and India?

I’d been told it would be long days, and involve driving a van full of cricket kit, water bottles and a ‘ginormous’ cool box around the country. And that, whilst there would be the glamour of televised games and some free New Zealand kit, the most important task would be …ensuring the washing was done on time!

It makes sense. You’re living out of a kit bag. You’re getting through ‘warm up’ and playing kit at an amazing pace – and there’s only so many spare shirts, trousers, shorts etc the baggage allowance and your aforementioned ‘kit bag’ can hold.

Along the way… I nearly blew out the clutch pulling a particularly heavy vanload of kit up a steep hill in Bristol. I had a plastic surgeon on standby to stitch a clean but gaping hole in the Kiwi Captain’s knee after she’d ‘spiked’ herself. But more importantly I managed to avoid sitting in a launderette doing the washing myself – as my colleagues working with the other teams had done – by planning ahead, as we zigzagged across the country in our matching transit vans.

I loved the experience. It reminding me that I’m organized, I can adapt quickly and I have a canny knack of persuading folks to give me ‘stuff’ or to ‘acquire’ what the team needed. Bearing in mind their requests varied from needing chocolate to …a spare set of stumps, a trip to A&E, contact lenses, vitamin C tablets… and the list goes on.

So my recent portfolio career was really a fortunate ‘chance’ opportunity. Although it reassured me that I could be useful in a role supporting and encouraging others to perform at their best. Not able to do what they do, at the level they do it, but feeling a ‘high’ from knowing that I’d got the washing done in time for them to pull on clean kit to face England under the full glare of the Sky TV cameras.

Spinning plates – how to manage multiple projects


Having multiple projects on the go means that you have to be good at project management and here I’m going to use the analogy of spinning plates as a way to share tips for managing multiple projects either as a portfolio worker or in other contexts.

Project start-up

When I first get involved in a project or a new piece of work it’s a bit like getting the plate spinning in the first place. It requires dedicated time and attention and depending on the complexity of the project there is likely to be new things to learn and new people to meet. To get the plate spinning efficiently you need to define the scope, your contribution and expectations of others and depending on your role in the project initiate the kick-off. In my experience communication with all stakeholders involved in a project is one of the key elements to the success and to getting the plate spinning well.

Multiple projects

Once you’ve got the plate spinning you need to ensure that it continues well and if you’ve got multiple projects on the go at one time this can be tricky. Sometimes despite the best planning in the world unexpected things happen, and it is important to allow for these risks. You also need to consider how to keep the plate spinning when you are not physically engaged with project. Planning ahead and also dedicating specific time each week to a certain project helps me to do this. A client recently remarked that she finds it useful to know that I have a dedicated time slot when I work on her project. This provides the structure and I then build in flexibility by also being available to answer ad hoc queries outside the dedicated time slot. This often requires a quick assessment to establish if the request outside the dedicated project time slot is urgent, essential or not.

Estimating well the time you need to do tasks is another important aspect of working on multiple projects. I am getting better at this and not over committing so much. You need to ensure that you have the time each week to go back to all the plates that need attention to keep them spinning. Or is there anyone working with you on the project who can help out, if you are otherwise committed. Delegation and communication are key skills to managing multiple projects


This is an interesting one, and I’ve written before about finding work and building your portfolio in line with your interests and strengths. I’ve built my portfolio around this and it seems to be working. It has resulted in me working on projects which all feed in to one another, so whilst they are separate pieces of work, with different customers, the content crosses over. So whilst I am spinning one plate, this is likely to be having a positive effect on other plates. I refer to this as win-win because everyone wins when you are able to facilitate sharing of learning and ideas across the projects you are working on. As long as client confidentiality is maintained, and open discussions take place then I am a big advocate of collaboration and sharing. If through your work you can enable this then it is a win-win and you can add value through your networks.

Number of plates – Plan, Plan, Plan

At the moment I am reflecting on the number of work project “plates” I have spinning and planning ahead to see how I get new ones started. Project plans are key to my work and I usually have three plans running concurrently – next week, next month and the year (or two) ahead. This is in addition to each project or contract having an individual project plan. To make sure you have a manageable number of plates spinning I recommend looking first at the big picture and then to chunk it down. I find this enables me to reflect on how any new project may fit in, and sometimes to say no. Currently I am looking at ways to increase capacity to have more plates and I’ll write more about this in another blog.

Long term success

Finally lets look at projects ending and new projects starting and how to ensure long term success. To succeed as a portfolio worker, freelancer, contracter or whatever you want to call the way you work, it is essential that you deliver well on projects and don’t let a plate fall. I learnt from my days working in sales that it is far easier to grow business with existing customers than to attract new ones. So my number one priority is always to deliver well on existing business before chasing new. This can be tricky when you are a solo entrepreneur because you need to have an eye both on delivery and ensuring there are new contracts or “plates” in the pipeline.

One last tip is to recommend that when the project or plate spinning comes to an end that you evaluate and review the project outputs. Even if the customer has not asked for an end of project evaluation report, offer them one, however brief, and also reflect for your own learning. It will help with getting the next plate spinning well.

I hope that this has triggered some useful ideas. I don’t have any formal project management training although I’m considering investing in some to help move on to the next level of plate spinning! Whilst I don’t have the formal training, what I do find works well is to build up experience over time and to make changes to keep improving.

Please do comment or add more ideas so that we can share. And following on from my conversation this week about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator with well qualified colleagues in this area, we each approach activity such as project management in different ways, so do reflect on your own experiences, strengths and ways of doing things. I’d love to hear your ideas.

I do not own the copyright for the photo in this article.

Moving away from or towards


I recently stumbled on an article which I’d written last year for about career change and the motivation of moving away from a current situation or towards new job opportunities. There is content in the article which I think will be of interest to portfolio careerists and I’ll reflect on some of the key points in this blog. The original article can be found at this link

What is your “moving towards” motivation when embarking on your portfolio career?

Is it also important to consider what you are moving away from?

I decided to go portfolio at a mid stage in my career and was drawn to do so by the flexibility and the freedom to try out and explore new opportunities. Writing is one opportunity which has emerged for me as a result. Not sure I would be writing this blog unless I’d branched out and made space in my work life for creative stuff.

I was also motivated by the chance to give myself options in the second half of my working life. I enjoy and value having a regular contract within a big organisation as part of my portfolio and wouldn’t totally rule out the idea of returning to work full-time in one job for one employer again. This however would be with the knowledge and experience I’ve gained from developing a range of skills and by working on a self employed basis. I can now turn to my portfolio of skills and experience to manage my future career.

Enough about me! Would you like to share your motivations for working portfolio on this blog? It could be a great way to promote your work and skills to potential clients, employers or collaborators.

Consider these questions?

Have you been pushed to develop your career by taking on bits and pieces of work because there was no alternative of full time work?

Or would you describe your situation as a “Move Towards” scenario where it was a choice to do what you want and work portfolio?

Have you made a positive choice to build up a portfolio of skills, jobs and experience?

How would you describe the journey?

Do contact me if you would like to be one of our career stories on this blog or if you have any other comments or questions about this post.

Healthy Change and Well-being

It’s been a while since I made the time to write a blog post for Portfolio Career Connections, so it’s been a little neglected of late. This is in part because I’ve been busy delivering work (which is great) and in part because I’ve been reflecting on the purpose of the blog and who I am writing for. I’ve been considering the question “how does the blog align to other aspects of my work?” and “What will readers find of interest and what am I inspired to write?”

I’ve decided to focus the next few blog posts on the topic of healthy change and well-being. Managing our careers in a healthy way is at the heart of what I believe in and I want to do more research in this area. In the next few blog posts I hope to unpick what we might mean by healthy change and well-being, particularly in the career context.

In my Twitter profile I say that JS-Coaching is designed to communicate, coach and collaborate for forward-thinking and healthy change, leading to new ways of working and doing business. I’m going to expand on the healthy change bit of this aspirational profile  and will be considering how coaching can lead to change which positively impacts on our well-being.

Through coaching conversations we can increase self-awareness and open up opportunities to make choices, either staying where we are or taking actions to develop and move in a new direction. I always get clients as part of this conversation to check in with how the decision or action will impact on their well-being.

Coaching can be facilitated in a number of ways, such as:

  • self-coaching (individual reflective practice)
  • peer-to-peer conversations
  • manager as coach
  • with a professional coach or mentor

More about what coaching is and isn’t in future blogs. But before we get on to that I’d like to share three areas of interest associated with coaching and well-being, which I am currently exploring:

 1.     Putting well-being at the heart of how we manage and develop our careers

If we do work in line with our interests, what motivates us, what we enjoy doing and  aligned to what we are good at (our strengths), we are more likely to do well and be well. The critical balance for career success and well-being will be different for each individual and is likely to change at different life stages. How do we as an individual value well-being?  What does it mean to us?

 2.  Enabling organisations to design work environments which put well-being at the heart.

In organisations where staff are not realising their potential and are not engaged in their work, both the individual and the organisation can get stuck in a situation where the “well-being” of the individual and the organisation suffers. How can we design projects, work processes, physical environments and coach individuals and organizations to move to situations where they are:

  • Realizing potential
  • Engaged in their work
  • Moving forward and making healthy changes
  • Looking after their well-being

3. Designing coaching projects, career development projects and university-to-business collaborative projects, which have the well-being of the individual and therefore of the organisation at the heart.

In forthcoming blogs I’ll be reviewing and sharing on this blog real experiences and projects I’ve been involved in to draw out key themes and patterns in the area of project design and well-being. I hope that this will be of interest to portfolio career connection readers.

Do share your thoughts or drop me a line with your questions on any of the above topics.