Portfolio careers

Portfolio Careers: impact on workplace & jobseeker

A Portfolio Careera tapestry of a variety of eclectic employment experiences; employment in a series of short-contract or part-time positions

Not new but on the increase

The term Portfolio Career is being used in current business  vernacular with the same type of smug and superior “in the know -ness,”  as we might have seen when the atom was split or  the wheel invented. I always smile indulgently! The concept of a portfolio career is actually far from new. What is new is the number who have embarked on this career path.

“Moonlighting” has long been a euphemism associated with individuals aspiring to break into such professions as acting, music, arts, writing etc, or others running more than one job. As companies abandon the corporate  “cradle to grave” employment concepts,  and move towards the leaner and meaner machines of more recent times, we had already started to see the beginnings of this seismic shift some years ago. Business Week referenced the changing work place practise of  Perma Temps, as organisations began to seek flexible ( =  disposable) workforces, to allow rapid response to fast changing business conditions.

I view and review literally hundreds of CVs in any given week. Although predicted by all the trend spotters, the shift to individuals having an increasing  number of jobs and spending less time in each, is becoming very marked. I am  often asked to avoid “hoppers/movers/jumpers”, but that is now an outmoded concept, particularly as younger age demographics move between jobs more strategically, with periods of employment, also punctuated by stints in further education.

No alternatives

Portfolio  careers and the wearing of many hats was once associated with mid- career or older professionals, perhaps after redundancy seeking a better work / life balance,  or when there were no other options. It was considered a fall back position. We are now seeing younger  Gen Yers build up this type of career, not because they particularly seek an improved quality of life, but because they have to tap into different parts of their skill sets, simply to  get a job,  any job. This is also apparent when coaching career changers pursuing MBA courses,  when I have come across a range of skills from Project Management, entrepreneurial roles, to professional photography, all in the same student.  The real challenge is to create an interesting and credible career profile to showcase success stories, transferable skills and the lessons learned from such diverse backgrounds and interests.


However, there are people who simply prefer the variety, flexibility and freedom offered by tapping into a wide range of skills, so they choose a wider portfolio career, over a more traditional focused one.  At one time a portfolio career was considered to be higher risk than a corporate role. Today, I’m not sure that is the case. Portfolio careers suit disciplined, self motivated people with strong time management skills,  who have a variety of skills and interests, as well as the drive to go out and market and monetize them. Portfolio careers are also generally associated with adept networkers and can be a great route to gaining experience in a new field, whilst maintaining a part-time role in a traditional job in line with a professional background. Many do just that.


The real issue will be for the demographic which doesn’t voluntarily choose this more entrepreneurial style of career strategy.  Flexibility for companies is key, of course, but if organisations aren’t careful, they can wind up searching for new talent in an alienated and demotivated workforce, which has struggled to gain skills in a wide range of unstructured and less professional environments. It also means a  quantum shift from lazy and uninsightful  “copy / paste” recruitment methodologies, sadly  relied upon by companies and some search consultants alike.

Read also: Career path replaced by Cluster Career

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5 thoughts on “Portfolio Careers: impact on workplace & jobseeker

  1. Wendy Mason

    This is an interesting subject Dorothy. I’m in the throws of a portfolio career writing, coaching and management consultancy when it is available. And that last one is key. Working as a management consultant at the end of my “corporate” career gave me a n opportunity to hone the skills I think you need in a portfolio career; particularly if you want to spend time as an interim manager. You need the ability to submerge yourself very quickly into a new corporate culture and absorb knowledge about the role/assignment, and what it needs, like a sponge. Then to mix metaphors, you need to hit the ground running and start delivering value very quickly. These are skills you can acquire but you need to be bright and you need to be very flexible to begin with if you are going to be a success. Managing a portfolio career successfully isn’t a soft option and I fear for some of those who are now setting out!

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