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.



Space for parallel projects

One of the aspects I enjoy most about having a portfolio of work is the space for parallel projects which feed in to one another. Here I will share my experience of taking learning from my work in Higher Education to the business world and vice versa.  

Parallel projects

I’ve been lucky to have worked for two years on a student engagement project, which involves students in the design and delivery of their careers service. The work is totally aligned to my interest and work in employee engagement and the work I do to help individuals develop their career in line with their interests, motivations and personal goals.

During the university project we have seen the value of engaging students in ways which gets them interested in their career and which in turn motivates them to spread the word to fellow students. They let us (the careers centre) know what they want and how they want it delivered.

Approaching staff development in organisations in a similar way can also pay dividends, and engage employees in positive ways. With technology and more fluid work environments, there is great scope to engage employees in the design and delivery of their training and their development needs. Sharing ownership with staff at all levels and not just senior staff can generate motivation and a positive learning environment.

Transfer of learning

For me it is great to feed ideas from the work I am doing in education in to the work I am doing with business people and vice versa. This is one of the key benefits of developing a portfolio of work in different sectors and with diverse client groups.

For my clients and employers it is also win-win, they benefit from the creative ideas, new perspectives and ways of working, which working on parallel projects can bring. All of this starts with space to explore and start projects in new sectors, which is not so easy if you are fully engaged in a full-time project or job.

Are you working on parallel projects and would like to share your thoughts?

What are the challenges? How can you effectively manage parallel projects?

How can you look for creative ways to diversify in to new sectors?

And how can you create the right space conditions for taking on parallel projects?

More about this in future blog posts.