So, what do you do?
You’d think that this standard icebreaker question would be something I’m used to by now, but if we’re being honest, it still makes me a little uncomfortable. I mean, how do I answer such a question when my career doesn’t fit into a neat little box?
For the longest time, I’d get a lot of anxiety around explaining my multi-passionate nature. I started to develop different versions of explaining what I do but still…nothing ever felt right.
Until, of course, I stumbled on the concept of “portfolio careers” and I literally said out loud: Wow, THIS IS ME!!!
What is a portfolio career?
A curated set of roles that can be linked together by a common theme or thesis.
Think of it this way: just like a business investor often has a particular theme or thesis that outlines the types of businesses they invest their money in, someone who has a portfolio career has a theme or thesis that links together everything they invest their time and energy in.
Some people have a full-time portfolio career (in other words, they have a bunch of part-time roles instead of working full-time for one employer) but it is very much possible to have a portfolio career while working a corporate job as well.
Isn’t it just the same thing as saying you have side hustles?
Not quite. Having a side hustle or multiple hustles is what makes up a portfolio career but the key part is that common thread that ties things together.
For example, my thesis is that I’m passionate about creating content, spaces and experiences where underrepresented groups feel seen and empowered. I consider myself a storyteller, truthteller and changemaker.
Whenever I’m presented with a new opportunity, I think about whether it aligns with this and pretty quickly, I can decide if it’s something I want to be involved with.
As a way to visually explain my portfolio career, I created this slide that I now use for most of my presentations:
As soon as I created this, I felt a huge wave of relief. Finally, all of the things that I’m involved in can not just make sense in my head but to other people. I feel way more confident in the way that I explain what I do and people are often pretty intrigued when I introduce them to the portfolio career concept.
The benefits of a portfolio career for the future of work
Well, first, let me start by saying that this type of career is not for everyone. If you’re someone that chooses to focus solely on one thing (which is a completely fine option too!), the idea of investing your time into various things probably gives you more anxiety than anything. It’s important to know yourself and what works for your personality. As I always like to say: career advice is not a one size fits all.
However, if you’re someone that has various passions and is looking for a way to tie them all together, a portfolio career may be exactly what you’re looking for. Here are a few benefits:
1. You’ll feel more engaged
This type of career is a great way to keep you energized as you’ll always have something different to work on. I love that my typical week has so much variety — I go to work and then I can come home and work on writing content, jump on a planning call for an event or share some advice with a board that I’m on. I find that having a portfolio career has kept my brain really sharp and overall, I feel a lot happier as I’m never bored!
That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that you’ll work more than ever before. I’ve never believed in that saying of “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” because if you are truly doing what you love, you’ll work a whole lot more! Sometimes I’m super tired when I get home after a long day from work but then I have deliverables from my other portfolio roles that I need to work on. The decision to have a portfolio career is certainly a choice but it’s not without sacrifices. The key is to know when to give yourself a break so that you don’t end up burning out.
2. You’ll have more career security
It’s basically the equivalent of not having all of your eggs in one basket. When you’re involved in so many different things, if you were to lose one, it’s not necessarily the end of the world because you have additional income and/or the right network to help you transition with ease. Given the nature of today’s job market, there’s something about having a portfolio career that can make you sleep a little better at night knowing that you have full ownership over your career and it’s not completely dependent on a single employer.
3. You give yourself a competitive advantage
Again, it’s hard out here on today’s job market so anything you can do to set yourself apart as a candidate is extremely beneficial. Having a portfolio career allows you to learn a ton more skills and expand your network. When you’re applying for jobs, you give yourself a lot more interesting things to say about yourself and the value you can bring to an organization. I guarantee it will make you a lot more memorable too!
What do you think about portfolio careers?
Originally published at https://www.dowelldresswell.com on January 28, 2020.