In this blog post, we pick up where we left off in our discussion of The Portfolio Career (Part One). Clearly, the world of work is changing. This is even truer during (and probably after) the pandemic. The “gig economy” that rose in the post-financial-crisis job market has seen self-employment become more common. The shift to working from home — an ongoing evolution that rapidly accelerated when the pandemic hit — has shown the viability of home-based businesses and freelance work. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic – namely, the upheaval in certain industries, layoffs, rapid workplace transformations, accelerated automation and economic ambiguity – all required that people be flexible in their approach to work and their career.
The portfolio career is often appealing to people who want to combine a high-paying position with other work that offers an opportunity for more creativity, growth, or personal meaning/fulfillment. To pursue a portfolio career, you must be willing to consider (or risk) some personal change. There is a degree of uncertainty when it comes to changing jobs, taking on a contract or temporary work, and combining multiple part-time and/or short-term jobs. On top of all that, there’s also a myth regarding the security of a full-time corporate position. The fact is that in many corporate roles, you’re powerless to prevent layoffs, downsizing, restructuring, or budget cutbacks. In this changing economic and work environment, specializing in one thing, or relying on one thing, can actually be riskier than pursuing a portfolio career.
It is counterintuitive, but there’s often more security in self-employment and taking advantage of opportunities in the “gig economy” that rose in the post-financial-crisis job market. Developing alternative skills and pursuing divergent career paths provides more security and makes you much more agile and adaptable. It’s highly unlikely that many of us will spend our entire careers in one industry, let alone one company, like many in previous generations could expect. There are entire industries going through massive change, and some are even at risk, as automation and AI continue to evolve at a rapid pace.
Specializing in just one role or one industry can not only be limiting, but you’re at risk of having a limited skill set and becoming obsolete. Diversification and flexibility across skills, roles, and industries is the only way to stay nimble and relevant. A portfolio career can provide more “on- and off-ramps” to pursuing full-time employment when the time and circumstances call for it, or alternatively when a hobby that’s become a side-gig is strong enough to be a viable, stand-alone business.
Tips for building a Portfolio Career
- Personal branding matters. In practical terms, this means being known for what you’re capable of producing or contributing rather than being known for where you work.
- Maintaining a professional and relatable resume that can be used to substantiate your skills and experience and help you secure different opportunities.
- Having a complete LinkedIn profile will give you a basic online presence so that you can be found is vital. You’ve heard the saying, “it’s not (only) what you know but who you know” that counts. I’m an even bigger fan of the less popular expression “It’s not what you know, but who knows you …” Having a profile is important, but I also recommend liking or commenting on posts as a way to gain some online visibility if you don’t have time to actually post content on LinkedIn.
- Being able to present a professional “package” or portfolio of work. Keep track of your references and testimonials so that when the time comes, you have independent proof that you’re a good bet for a new employer or client. Some of your key accomplishments, publications, and testimonials/recommendations can be attached to your LinkedIn profile. As a fallback, even having notes about these accomplishments, recommendations, awards, publications, etc. in your own private records will be useful during your annual reviews or when trying to demonstrate your worth in a cover letter.
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 phone, email, or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
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I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.™