Why a portfolio career may be exactly what you need

Why a portfolio career may be exactly what you need

‘Portfolio career’ became a bit of a buzzword(s) some years before the COVID pandemic. Since then the world of work has changed pretty dramatically and we thought it was a good time to revisit the concept. It’s certainly not everyone’s choice but there are people out there who juggle very successful careers across fields.

What is a portfolio career?

Generally a portfolio career refers to having two or more jobs. It emerged in the creative sectors where there is often a natural crossover of skills between roles (e.g. a graphic designer who also works as an illustrator and animator) but is increasingly seen across industries. Sometimes portfolio careers consist of two or more highly related jobs, for example being a qualified quantity surveyor and loss adjuster, working freelance or for different companies. Sometimes they combine vocation and a passion for example a GP who also teaches yoga. Often a portfolio career consists of a main job with subsidiary work, perhaps a member of cabin crew who also writes articles for inflight magazines and blogs for travel agencies.

What are the benefits of a portfolio career?

Variety! Some of us are just not born to do the same job, the same tasks every day. Work is not always ‘fun’ but you can avoid it being deathly boring. People often choose a portfolio career to balance active and inactive roles; a part-time financial advisor who also works as a personal trainer, a tour guide who also writes for a heritage magazine or administrator with a dog-walking business. Sometimes it’s good to combine the creative and the technical or the commercial and the charitable.

Portfolio careers can also be fantastic for creating more ’rounded’ professionals. When you have different hats to wear it is likely that you will gain better understanding of the roles of others. When you come at problems from alternative angles (for example from the position of an estate agent v. property developer) you learn far more. Soft skills, broader understanding of industries, ability to negotiate with other departments are things we are always be asked for. If you can see things from different perspectives you are a better employee!

What are the disadvantages of a portfolio career?

Previously we would have said the main disadvantage of a portfolio career is instability. However post-pandemic having more strings to your bow seems a pretty sensible option. There is a perception that unless you are doing the same thing day in, day out you will not be as skilled as your counterparts, and perhaps that is true in some trades. You need to ensure that the service or product you provide is of exactly the same standard of someone without multiple careers.

Another disadvantage of a portfolio career is about how you define and market yourself. Potential clients and employers may not understand your profile. This shouldn’t stop you pursuing a portfolio career but be aware that you will have to really think about how you present yourself to avoid confusion.

Is it for me?

If you are bored at work you may be looking for other options. A portfolio career isn’t for everyone and you may just need a more interesting fulfilling full time job. Only you can know the answer but ask yourself…

  • How would a portfolio career benefit me?
  • Do I have the time / contacts to promote myself across roles or industries?
  • Do I have the financial stability to pursue other routes?
  • Are my secondary roles actually hobbies? Am I realistically going to make money from them?
  • How do my chosen roles link? Are there transferable skills?
  • How would I divide my time? How will that effect client relationships?
  • How would I define myself in a networking situation?

More and more people have portfolio careers in some respects. The world of work is changing and due to massive staff and skills shortages workers are in demand. Define your own career, set your own rules and be happy at work!

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