It took a recent Forbes article and an email exchange with a self-employed friend to realize that I’ve been a longstanding portfolio careerist without knowing it. If you’re not familiar with the term, a portfolio career is defined loosely as a variety of eclectic and frequently concurrent employment activities.
By that definition, I’ve been a portfolio careerist pretty much from the moment I graduated with my journalism degree and somehow ended up holding down a full-time job for a magazine, a part-time job for an alternative weekly newspaper posting content to their online community, and writing freelance articles on pop culture and arts topics. This pattern of having a full-time employer plus a 10-hour per week regular gig or a significant amount of freelancing on the side has continued throughout most of my career. Why? Because it’s the best way I know how to keep all of my marketing and communications skills sharp while ensuring I’m learning new things and conquering new challenges.
My self-employed friend is also a portfolio careerist. Her pattern looks a little different from mine, as she is typically juggling a part-time position with a small handful of short-term contracts or freelance assignments. But what we both have in common is having a significant passion around multiple skills and interest areas, and a desire to apply them to meaningful work.
So, how do you recognize that you have a portfolio career in the making? You’ll identify with or closely resemble the majority of these statements:
- You have multiple jobs not due to financial necessity only, but rather because it allows you to pursue your varied interests
- You feel invigorated by your many projects and extracurricular gigs
- When employed full time, even while very busy and engaged with your work, you’re researching other passions and daydreaming about how to incorporate them into your job
- Has a primary motivator for having changed jobs in the past been that you were getting bored with the repetition of the day-to-day work?
If you closely resemble the above, then actively committing to a portfolio career might be the right career next step for you. But before you make the leap, check out this great free portfolio career assessment tool to see how you score.
I score high on the assessment, but having tried out full-time self-employment in the past, I realize my version of a portfolio career needs to have at least a part-time on-site gig as one component. I need the mental stimulation and camaraderie of having a team with whom to brainstorm and collaborate.
What about you? What does your flavor of a portfolio career look like? And when did you first recognize yourself as a portfolio careerist?