Portfolio careers – jack of all trades, master of none or a 21st century career path?

I have been thinking a lot about my career path, it has been a bumpy one with large absences due to kids, husbands career and life in general but Im finally starting to feel like I am figuring it out.  It is not a traditional path and one that many find hard to understand but my husband and I are becoming masters of the portfolio career… people have stopped asking how many pies we have fingers in and more what flavour they are.

A portfolio career is an increasingly popular way to work, especially in the current economical climate where redundancy is high and jobs seem scarce.  It means rather than working one full time job, combining two or more types of work.  In it’s simplest form this can be working two part time jobs, taken further it is a variety of eclectic employment experiences.

Portfolio Careers are usually built around a collection of skills and interests, the main theme being self management – a portfolio career means you no longer have one boss but multiple ones or you are self employed and the only boss you have is yourself.

There are many reasons for considering a portfolio career.  A better work/life balance. Variety and use of multiple skill sets.  The ability to follow multiple passions or for personal growth and fulfillment. Necessity due to childcare or family commitments.  The desire to be self employed and control your own fate.

There are of course challenges to wearing multiple hats and it requires a good set of organisational skills.  Balancing demands for time and managing your time effectively between roles is key.  Other challenges are higher levels of uncertainty, feelings of isolation when you don’t have a photo copier to gossip over with colleagues and a lack of routine that some may thrive on but others may struggle with.

Right now my husband Timm and I run a photography business together, he also has an arts collaboration that I work with.  Timm is a festival director for two large festivals, he manages a band and has some major plans for next year that I can’t discuss yet but will mean a huge increase in work load for us both!  I have this blog, which is my new baby – I have some plans to expand and improve the blog, include an online shop AND a couple of book ideas that are circling at the moment and may come off…

We also have four children, two dogs and a cat! Phew!!!

It’s hard work and long hours – but we both agree that we could never work for someone else again.  Being our own bosses and having portfolio careers mean we feel fulfilled, excited and in control of our work.  Can many other people say the same?

It’s not for everyone but we have lived with Timm being self employed for 20 years and so we are comfortable with a lifestyle that offers no pension, no sick pay and looonnnnnng hours.  Think hard about your options, Graham Nicholson, president of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, says career planning should be based on four main factors: skills, interests, values and personality. If you have a wide range of skills and interests, then a portfolio career is likely to work better.

If you are considering a change in career or just starting out then there are more options than the traditional career path – get some good careers advice and look at all your options, you never know a portfolio career might just work for you.

Love Sam xx


One thought on “Portfolio careers – jack of all trades, master of none or a 21st century career path?

  1. I am somewhat biased as I have written a book on portfolio careers, “And What Do You Do?: 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career”, Bloomsbury. What my co-author, Katie Ledger and I have found from interviewing a large selection of portfolio workers is that hardly any would even consider returning to what I call a single track career. They actually report feeling more secure in a recession as they are not reliant on only one job. Attitudes towards this growing phenomenon amongst employers are proving fascinating. Even the CBI in a recent report say that our concepts of work and employment are going to have to change with organisations relying more on a small core workforce supplemented by an army of temporary or project workers. Portfolio workers typically are self motivated, self starters and reliable. They have to be as they will not survive unless they are excellent time managers and organisers. They will be increasingly attractive as employees. We are just beginning a programme of interviewing a wide range of employers to check out their attitudes to this growing group of workers. We reckon that there are already over a million of us in the UK alone. Yes – we are portfolio workers too! Follow our project on http://www.portfoliocareers.net You could also join the ongoing discussions in our LinkedIn portfolio careers group.

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