Who’s attracted by portfolio careers?

by Katie Ledger on March 28, 2008 · 3 comments

in Uncategorized

Question MarkIf you are reading this before reading my previous post – please go back to find out what a portfolio career is!)

Starting out on your career and unsure about a long-term direction, it can be a way of ‘trying on’ a number of different types of paid work. The arguments for pursuing a portfolio career at the beginning of one’s adult life are spelled out by Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness. He believes the best way to figure out what will make you happy is to try it. A portfolio career gives you the opportunity to try three or four types of work at the same time and to keep switching choices until you come up with a portfolio you like.

Penelope Trunk who has a blog called the Brazen Careerist states that “…for people in their 20s and 30s, a portfolio career is a means of self-discovery, hedging one’s bets and protecting their quality of life. A portfolio career is not the same thing as holding down three bad jobs and wishing you could figure out what to do with yourself. Rather, it is a scheme you pursue purposefully and positively, as a way to achieve financial or personal goals or a mixture of both.”

· It can be ideal for people who have other responsibilities to work around, e.g. caring for children or other relatives.

· Many over 50’s see it as a real alternative to the traditional 9-5 work style as although the majority of this age group want to continue in paid work they mostly do not want more of the same. It can be a real alternative to retirement from full time employment.

· An increasing number of people are interested in setting up their own business but do not want to risk giving up their existing jobs completely. A Portfolio Career can enable you to take that step without risking losing everything you have built up in your previous workstyle.

· It can be a combination of traditional employment, contract work, temporary jobs, freelancing and self employment.   The format can be to work simultaneously on various projects or simultaneously with several clients or with single clients in succession.   Sometimes the strands of your portfolio even rotate seasonally: one of our interviewees is an accountant in the summer months in the UK and runs a ski school in Switzerland during the winter.

· It can be a great way of developing a personal and professional “brand”, as you can combine different skills and interests in a way that is unique to you and many of our respondents have discovered that they can even earn more money from 3 or more part-time jobs than from one full-time job. This is not however guaranteed! To be continued !

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris Nel April 1, 2008 at 7:23 am

I started my working life as a soldier, then after briefly mixing it with the corporate world I worked for a small consultancy … now …at 44, I run my own business.

This allows me the flexibility to take the work I want lecturing at a university, running a community leadership development programme, speaking at conferences, facilitating corporate and public sector change management programmes… It keeps me off the streets.

I never set out to be a ‘portfolio worker’ and was quite surprised when I was accused of being one. I suppose it is true? I have always focussed on doing work I love doing and change when I stop loving it…

Another fine mess I’ve got myself in to!

Have fun

2 Katie Ledger April 1, 2008 at 10:34 am

hi Chris,

thnaks for sharing your story – I shall be folowing up with you very soon !

3 betaculture April 1, 2008 at 11:46 am

do you mean one of diverse hybrid straight integrated or freelanc?

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