A flexible and fulfilling career – portfolio working

Portfolio careers are another option for flexible working. Rachel Brushfield – ‘The Talent Liberator’, career strategist, coach and published author talks to us about what it is, why it is growing and how to make it a reality.

What is portfolio working and why is it growing?

Portfolio working is when an individual has multiple strands rather than just 1 to their career. This trend has been growing for a while, fuelled by desire and also necessity post credit crunch.  A portfolio career is a future proof career ideal for uncertain times and a more fulfilling and flexible longer working life.

Why is portfolio working growing?

  1. Many people aren’t one-dimensional and fit in just one ‘box’, they have different skills and interests.
  2. The job for life is dead as a concept – a portfolio career helps you create your career as you want it to be and adapt it over time.
  3. A current shortage of full-time jobs has led to more part time jobs, creating a financial shortfall that needs to be filled.
  4. The younger generation actively seek more variety than the older generations, and have different career needs and wants to previous generations.
  5. People are now more used to choice and like the idea that they can design their career as they wish.
  6. More people are seeking more meaning and purpose from their work, and a portfolio career enables people to both earn money and give back.
  7. Mixing employment and self employment reduces the perceived risk of going it alone 100%.
  8. More companies are seeing contracts and projects as a wise solution without increasing headcount, giving you the scope to have a portfolio career.
  9. Life expectancy is increasing with a 100 year life predicted for many, so for the 50+, a portfolio career provides a gradual ‘slope’ rather than steep ‘cliff’ to retirement.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to explore portfolio working?

  1. Know your financial break even and how much money you need to feel secure and have peace of mind.
  2. Create efficient systems as multi career strands can take more time to manage.
  3. Plan time for marketing to line up the next contract/retainer and create a financial buffer in case things change unexpectedly.
  4. Get advice from people doing portfolio working so you understand the pros and cons.
  5. Know your values and needs/wants so that you can ensure that a portfolio career is the right choice to give you fulfilment not stress.
  6. Create a personal brand which can encompass all elements of your portfolio career.
  7. What would your ideal portfolio career be and what’s the first step to explore it?

Examples of portfolio working?

Charles Handy wrote The age of unreason, in 1989, a book ahead of its time. His book inspired Rachel to become self employed in 1997 and design her work to suit herself. During the latter years of Handy’s working life, he had an usual portfolio career, splitting the calendar year with his wife Elizabeth; half of the year was focused on his career with her support, and the other 6 months, he supported her career as a photographer.

Portfolio working mixes vary enormously. Here are a couple of other examples.

Lesley does a mixture of employed and self-employed work. She co-facilitated the Energise Steer your career workshops with Rachel, has a 2 day a week retainer for a charity and runs 2 networking groups. Ben an IT contactor, works hard and earns half the year and saves up to go travelling abroad the second half. The mix satisfies his financial needs AND wanderlust and he plans to self publish a book about his travels. There are many more examples of portfolio careers in Rachel’s Energise free report Discover Portfolio Careers report, free to download.

Thanks to Rachel for sharing her insights.  If you would like more information from Rachel  see her LinkedIn profile.






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