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Are you a Renaissance woman?

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Why more of us will build a Portfolio Career.

Some of you may know - from, you know, my LinkedIn posts where I mention it at least once a week and my love for books on the subject - that I love portfolio careers!

I believe that portfolio careers are the answer to a number of questions that you may have during your career change journey. I'll delve into them shortly

But before we start I think it might be helpful to explain what a portfolio career is.

A portfolio career is where - instead of having one job - you create multiple income streams. Your portfolio career could be made up of one or multiple part-time jobs in which you work as an employee, a consultancy role and a freelance role.

The point of a portfolio career is that you are not relying on just one source of income.

Now, up until, say, 15 years ago I had never really heard of a portfolio career. In my world everyone had just decided from a young age what they wanted to do, studied for it, and started climbing up the ladder as soon as they left university.

No one worked for themselves. No one had their own business, let alone a portfolio career.

And then I moved to the UK, and met one of the local councillors. Not in the council office, where I worked, but in his capacity as a gardener! And that's when I learned about portfolio careers for the first time. Because that's what he did! He had multiple income streams. From gardening, from being a councillor, from a number of other jobs that provided him with enough to live on.

It opened my eyes. To how others made a living. To how a 'career' is not the only way to make a living. That there are many other ways of doing this.

Now, being a gardener and a local councillor may not be your ideal portfolio career. But I'd like to think that there are as many combinations of jobs as there are people. And that - if this is how you'd like to organise your career and life - there is nothing stopping you! Because for me, and many others there are a number of advantages to having a portfolio career:

1. Don't put all your eggs in one basket

One employer. Having job security. With the last financial crisis (the 'credit crunch', remember that?) and this pandemic and economic crisis it is more than abundantly clear that job security does not exist. Or, rather, that job security is only as long as your notice period. So, increasingly people are searching for ways of spreading the risk. To have two or more incomes. So that, when disaster strikes (and it inevitably will) you are not completely reliant on one employer only.

2. You are multi-faceted

I believe we are multi-faceted. That there's going to be a time when you get bored, restless, and start to resent the fact that you spend so much time at work, not being able to do all the other things you'd like to do. Which is why a portfolio career is perfect for those of us who fall into this category. Because not only does a portfolio career give you the ability to shape it just how you like it, you can tune one element up and another one down as you progress, allowing you the flexibility to continue shaping your career just how you like it!

3. Create a flexible lifestyle

If you have a portfolio career you are able to shape it in any which way you like. Which means that a portfolio career can act as the ultimate lifestyle choice. Or, as Steve Preston says in his book Portfolio Careers, you should consider your portfolio career as an umbrella, with multiple segments: your employed work, your consultancy work, your freelancing work, your volunteering, as part of your wider lifestyle, including exercise, family and friends, your spiritual health and your creative endeavours.

4. Work anywhere

If the Corona virus crisis has taught us anything it is that we can work from anywhere (unless, of course, you are a gardener). Which allows us even wider access to jobs. And an ability to switch between jobs too, without leaving your home!

Admittedly this is not for everyone. But if employers/clients can see the benefit then surely that means there are opportunities to take on some of these jobs?

Now, inevitably, there are things that you would need to think about when considering a portfolio career.

1. It's not for everyone

If you are restless, have multiple interests, would like to be able to do different things in a day, a portfolio career may well be for you. If you like to get stuck into one problem and go deep, perhaps not. And if your type of work needs a big team around it, it might not be your path either (unless you are able to pursue this on a consultancy or contractor basis?).

In Barrie Hopson and Katie Ledger's book 'And what do you do? 10 steps to a portfolio career' a useful survey will help you work out if it's for you or not.

2. Time management

If you have to be at different places each day, or deliver certain pieces of work by a deadline then time management is crucial. Which means that you're going to have to be a whole lot more savvy with your time keeping than perhaps you've had to be up until now. But - of course - a portfolio career doesn't have to mean multiple pieces of work on one day. You could have a seasonal portfolio career - where you do one thing in the summer (gardening, anyone?), and another in the winter. Or have one job three days a week, and another for the rest.

For great examples of how someone has made a portfolio career work for her read the stories of Toks and Angela in my Career Inspiration Stories.

3. Your network

A lot of people only start thinking about their network when they need another job. If you are considering a portfolio career you need a new job every day, especially if you are freelancing or running your own business!

You may therefore need to consider exactly who is in your network, who you'd like to work for and who you need to create clients or want as your (part-time) employer and create the contacts you need to keep your portfolio career going.

And in today's climate this may be a good strategy for anyone!

In other words, a portfolio career can give you a lot of benefits. Flexibility. More freedom in how and when you do your work. The ability to use multiple skill sets.

I believe portfolio careers are here to stay. And that they are perfect for those people who have the skills and attitude that lend themselves for this type of career. It's not for everyone. It's not for every job. But it's certainly a route to consider if you are the multi-faceted person who has been unable to fit all their interests, causes, skills and capabilities into one career!

What do you think?


Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.

Join her now in Pick 'n Mix - the FREE community for creative, multi-passionate women or sign up to the newsletter.

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