David Mellor explains why he has a portfolio career

by Barrie Hopson on September 19, 2010 · 4 comments

in portfolio careers,Storytelling

As you know we love to receive stories about people who have opted for a portfolio career and I came across David’s through Google Alerts on the Recruiter site. I asked David if we could use it as a guest posting here so read his story below.

“The portfolio career is not a new concept. Charles Handy introduced the idea back in the 1980s when he saw the corporate world moving from monolithic and paternalistic organisations (cradle to grave) to the leaner and meaner businesses of the 1990s and beyond.

I remember when I joined Midland Bank in 1976, everyone — family, friends and fellow employees — assumed I would be there until I retired. As being a company man became less the norm, opportunities arose to undertake personal career planning, in particular to contemplate several careers at the same time with different rewards for each. A new working model was born.

Can a portfolio career offer a better quality of life? Yes, it can. Throw into the pot something intensive (and well paid) driven by existing experience, something less well paid but very rewarding and possibly something voluntary or ‘pro bono’. All these components create a different work-life balance that could potentially feed in to family and leisure time.

So, in my case, what does this portfolio look like? It has four main components:

Education with Cass Business School (City University). I get involved in lecturing, business development and mentoring across the range from undergraduate, through postgraduate to executive education. My work involves programming structuring, running facilitated sessions, and lecturing on entrepreneurship, strategic planning/implementation and bank management/strategy.

HR consultancy with Fairplace. I am retained as an associate to mentor people who have left full-time employment and as part of their outplacement package are looking for advice and support in setting up their own business. The range of ideas has been fascinating!

Business mentoring with Viridian. I am an executive director working on business improvement with boards, partnerships and individual board members/partners.

NED work. I hold non-executive director positions with Azure Partners (business strategy consultancy) and Lysis Financial (IT strategy consultancy).

So how does it work, the move from being a senior investment banker to running a portfolio like this? The dominant factor is careful networking. I firmly believe this is an activity much misunderstood by the business community at large. I never cease to be amazed at how many people see it as a forum for asking for jobs, selling or looking prematurely for leads to job vacancies or sales opportunities. If the focus is on building relationships and seeking information, it can produce over time extraordinary results.

But nobody could say that building a portfolio career is easy. Like most things in life it follows the old rule of ‘10% inspiration, 90% perspiration’ and it has taken over six years for me to mould the portfolio mix with which I am really comfortable. One of the challenges is that the journey you go on takes you through a range of emotions. If you picture a typical bell curve, you can imagine three phases:

· Phase 1 — when satisfaction is relatively low as the portfolio takes a frustratingly long period to take shape.

· Phase 2 — when satisfaction begins to grow rapidly as all the constituent parts fall into place (perhaps even ones you hadn’t thought about but which fit in quite nicely).

· Phase 3 — when satisfaction begins to wane as the different parts begin to compete for your time. This is where having a good mentor plays an important part and I am really fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with someone who has done a great job with me on time management and helped me make some difficult choices when necessary.

Once you have the balance it’s much easier to change balance, focus, pace and portfolio composition than it is in a conventional career.

What has a portfolio career given me? So many things including variety, interest, challenge, recognition, freedom from politics, appropriate financial reward, personal development, a sense of fulfillment, greater autonomy and flexibility. Perhaps most importantly it has enabled me to work with people I like and for people I like.

I’ve tried to make this account a balanced and controlled appraisal of what a portfolio career means to me and could mean to you. It is not easy; it has challenges like any other role, but if you get it right the rewards are enormous — and you can have some fun as well.”

Thanks David.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris King September 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm

David,
Well done! I love the descriptions of what careers are included in your portfolio and what you like about having one. I also appreciate the fact that you mention that it is not easy and needs time management and balance. Way to go!
Chris

2 financial aid for college September 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

3 veterinary technician September 21, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

4 Student Education Grants October 3, 2010 at 5:16 pm

“What has a portfolio career given me? So many things including variety, interest, challenge, recognition, freedom from politics, appropriate financial reward, personal development, a sense of fulfillment, greater autonomy and flexibility. Perhaps most importantly it has enabled me to work with people I like and for people I like.”

Very impressive stuff…. I have never really understood the concept of a “portfolio career” but what I read in this post, it can be very impressive and overall very rewarding. Well done.

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