The Portfolio Career (Part 1 of 2)
The Portfolio Career (Part 1 of 2)

the portfolio career often includes freelance workI often talk about building resilient careers, in fact, it’s part of my tagline “Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.™” It’s only in retrospect that I noticed that I’ve also been building a portfolio career. The portfolio career involves having several income sources featuring a mix of full and/or part-time employment, freelance and contract work, and/or a side business, rather than one single-source income, full-time job.


Author Charles Handy outlined what he called a “portfolio life” in his 1989 book on organizational behaviour, The Age of Unreason, where he reimagined the reorganization of careers as portfolios full of different jobs. This could involve having a series of jobs, each for a short time, rather than one job for a long time. He was ahead of his time.


Without knowing it, I’ve built a portfolio career by taking on a range of freelance contracts and integrating a few portfolios: applied social psychology (e.g., research on inclusion), work psychology (e.g., helping organizations identify and hire leaders and employees), business psychology (e.g., helping entrepreneurs with their mindset and leadership), career coaching, executing coaching, writing, and speaking.


a portfolio career needs self-management A key theme of a portfolio career is the concept of self-management. You decide when you work, whom you work with, and how much you’re worth.


Here are some portfolio career concepts that can be combined into a full-time schedule:

  • Two or more part-time jobs.
  • A retainer with an organization (e.g., two days a week) and other freelance work with others and/or part-time job
  • A part-time job and freelance work.
  • Freelance projects, a part-time job, side business.
  • Building a business, supplemented with a part-time job or freelance/contract work.
  • Short-term work contracts (e.g., 3-12 months), taking a break to recharge, pursue studies, work on a business, work part-time elsewhere, then another contract position.
  • Pursue education, freelance projects and running an online business from home.


A portfolio career may be suitable for a wide variety of people:

  • People who want more control over their career development and trajectory
  • People who want to have more variety, flexibility and fulfilment in their working life than having one job can give.
  • People with ideas for other projects and/or business ideas outside the scope of their full-time position.
  • People who are unsatisfied with settling on one career or industry and climbing the corporate ladder.
  • Mature workers in their 50’s or 60’s who may be having trouble finding employment that matches their skill level, experience, and compensation expectations, or who want to leave full-time employment but don’t want to retire completely as yet.
  • People who want to ensure some security and flexibility instead of the risk of losing a single, full-time income source in the event of a job loss.
  • People with an interest and curiosity to pursue a variety of talents and interests rather than be constrained by the role and tasks of a full-time position. Someone curious and interested in a variety of different subjects, which are often not related to one another.
  • People exploring self-employment or entrepreneurship – starting and running a business.
  • People returning to work after a prolonged absence.
  • People looking to leave full-time employment and enjoy a better work/life balance.
  • Young people who want to explore career options through a variety of different work projects and employers.


With such a long list, many people will find themselves and their careers reflected. There’s a lot to unpack on this topic so stay close. I’ll continue to share my thoughts on the portfolio career in part two.


If you’re contemplating any work-related changes or improvements, I invite you to reach out today for a free and confidential initial phone consultation by phoneemail, or via direct message on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn.


More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.


I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.™

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