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.

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.