Recession could make portfolio careers more attractive

by Barrie Hopson on December 20, 2008 · 4 comments

in Uncategorized


An interesting posting from Andrew Horder asserts that the recession could be a blessing in disguise for many people. That might appear to be very sky in the pie thinking to people whose jobs are at risk. He says: “It may be my jaundiced view of the corporate life, but in my experience the majority of those working in the big corporates are not really passionate about their work – they just trundle along to the office each day to earn a crust, doing work they kind of drifted into …
I’m not saying it’ll be easy. For most there’ll be a time of horrendous anxiety as their once-comfortable lives are turned upside down and they wonder how they’re going to pay the bills on their house that’s now worth less than the mortgage. But with the right guidance to help them work out what really gives them a buzz, and what they need to do to make money at it, we could see a surprisingly large number of them jumping out of bed at first light, eager to get on with yet another great day”.

What particularly made me prick up my paradigm shift ears was the following statement about portfolio careers.

“But why will this downturn be different to those that have gone before? One reason is that we were seeing the start of portfolio careers even before sub-prime came along, and what Zopa (http://uk.zopa.com/ZopaWeb/) calls “Freeformers” – people ready to make up their life structure as they go along. So this time round, people have become more tolerant of risk in their income streams (or perhaps just more aware that the risk profile of the old paradigm has changed), and I believe more will be prepared to take that jump away from the traditional corporate career, if the payoff is living their life with spirit and passion.”

Katie and I are increasingly convinced that we are experiencing a major paradigm shift initially in how individuals perceive the concept of career and quickly to be followed by organisations fundamentally changing how they define paid work, jobs and careers.

The world of work will look very different as we emerge from the current situation maybe 1 – 2 years from now.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jo December 22, 2008 at 2:50 am

The first corollary to portfolio careers is the notion of personal leadership – the celebration of work as discovering and shaping places that we want to be.

The second corollary is the idea of networked supply chains or local modularization. Portfolio workers are often free lance workers – ‘journeymen’. They can also work out the supply network in their industry and focus on critical parts with high value.

Happy Christmas and may you have an unexpectedly prosperous 2009!

2 Barrie Hopson December 23, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Jo – you always leave the most perceptive comments! I love your phrase about ‘discovering and shaping places that we want to be’. You might find that quoted by us later – with full acknowledgement of course!
I think that many PC’s are free lancers but we have also discovered others who are not but just choose to have more than one PAYE job. The motivation however appears to be the same.
Katie and I both wish for you the Christmas that you would want and really hope you are correct for us and for others too about an unexpectedly prosperous 2009.

3 Andrew Horder January 4, 2009 at 9:37 am

Thanks for referencing my Ecademy post Barry – there’s more along similar lines at my The Busy Fool blog: http://www.thebusyfool.com/wordpress/

Do you think a portfolio career is the same as portfolio working? I’ve always thought of a portfolio career as a number of sequential f/t roles in different functions or professions, and portfolio working as a number of simultaneous p/t roles in different organisations. What’s your view?

4 Barrie Hopson January 18, 2009 at 9:50 am

Thanks Andrew. If you look at the posts of the past week you will see that we are clearly differentiating a portfolio career from what we are calling single track, serial and lifestyle career patterns. We take the Charles Handy definition of a Portfolio Career as one where by choice someone has 2 or more jobs at the same time. The maximum I have come across to date with the people we have interviewed is 10! The average seems to be between 3 – 5.

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