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The Rise of the Portfolio Career

Dec 28 2015

The prospect of a ‘career’ for life is one that is sadly in decline these days. Unless you set out in life with the dream of becoming a doctor, a teacher, a carpenter or similar, chances are you end up stumbling across your career a bit further down the line. After all, with so many different jobs out there, it’s virtually impossible to know exactly what you want to do when you leave school and consider which course to take at college or university.

Portfolio career


If you’re anything like me, you took a degree in a subject that interested you at the time. It wasn’t until I started my degree that I really discovered what I liked and didn’t like and even then, I had no fixed ‘career’ in my mind. When I was at university, it was drummed into me that you need to know what you want to do and find a job that is secure and work your way up within it. This wasn’t something that ever appealed to me but I followed the advice I was given.

I’ve managed to carve a good career path. All my roles have fit nicely together and I have progressed as I’ve moved from job to job but I never found that career for life. I’ve worked on many short-term contracts and worked freelance as well as working for big organisations. I’m all about variety and change and I wouldn’t enjoy being in a single profession forever. That is why I’m so interested in the rise of the portfolio career.

A portfolio career is a varied, flexible approach to work which allows people to focus on different skills and enjoyments. We don’t all fit nicely into a career box and a portfolio career is a wonderful way of allowing people to work on a number of different things that they are passionate about. These can be a number of part-time jobs, freelance work, short-term contracts and small businesses. It creates a career that is varied, flexible and that makes use of all of a person’s skills and experiences.
Portfolio careers are enjoyed by people in a number of industries and indeed may cross over between industries. They are a popular option for creatives and people in the medical professions who enjoy a number of different elements of their work. This approach allows them to combine all of the things they enjoy rather than just focusing on one aspect.

Pros and cons of a portfolio career

Advantages of a portfolio career

This is no doubt that a portfolio career will give you more variety than a traditional single career. Portfolio careers became popular in the recession when working on several jobs was a necessity for some, rather than a choice. The difficulty in finding work forced people to take several part-time jobs or to take on contracted work alongside existing employment. However, since then it has become a lifestyle choice for many who enjoy the variety and freedom to try a number of different things as I’ve already mentioned.
This option also allows a greater amount of flexibility and freedom. Rather than being tied down to one job, someone with a portfolio career can choose their contracts and tailor their work so that they only do the bits they enjoy. Short-term or freelance contracts mean that work is forever changing and allowing the development of new skills. It also creates more flexibility and so is popular amongst parents and part-time workers who are aiming for a work-life balance that cannot be achieved in a full-time job with regular hours.

Disadvantages of a portfolio career

Many people considering a portfolio career will be worried about job security. It’s true that finding work will be a big factor. If contracts are short-term or freelance, you will have to make sure that you are on the ball and have work lined up for when your current work ends. Without a long-term contract, you can be left vulnerable but the beauty of a portfolio career is that if one source of income dries up, you will have several more to fall back on. After all, how secure are jobs these days? Even people on a long-term contract can be made redundant and are at the mercy of someone else. With a portfolio career, you are creating your own work and you have the power to make sure that being out of pocket isn’t an option.
Finding your own work requires discipline and motivation. This could be a daunting factor for some people. However, with the option to utilise all your skills, not just those you’ve honed in your current career, you should have lots of options. It can also be very difficult to express yourself on a CV when you have been involved in so many different kinds of work. A traditional, chronological CV would not do justice to someone with a portfolio career and you will need alternative ways to express your career history. Fear not though, you can always search for resume writing services or hire a professional to write your CV for you.