The Future Of Work: Portfolio Careers


andwhatdoyoudoLast week I explored the concept Noded working. “Noded” is really a subset of a much wider phenomenon emerging in the world of work — the notion of “portfolio careers.”

In her blog on the subject, Katie Ledger — co-author of the forthcoming book “And What Do You Do?: 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career” — describes portfolio careers as work that “uses all your skills and passions…doing two or more jobs for different employers.”

The turbulence and insecurity of a globalized job market means that many people are, in essence, temporary workers with little assurance of a permanent job. As such, people are seeking security by establishing control over who they work with and what they work on.

The title of Ledger’s book is telling. Like many others, I find myself being asked,  “And what do you do?” frequently. But even after almost three years of self-employment, I struggle to find a concise response without rambling through a range of consultancy projects, advisory board roles, startup investments, writing gigs and conference development. Perhaps “a portfolio of digital technology projects” should suffice as an answer?

Though each of my activities and roles requires a different range of skills and attitudes, sometimes with no overlap between them, somehow it adds up to a cohesive career. Although outwardly it might seem unfocused and fragmented, I can now deploy “portfolio working” as a useful umbrella term.

Most significantly, people discussing portfolio careers often underline motivation as the key element in this mode of working — people use a portfolio of options when seeking a better work/life balance, to learn new skills, to extract themselves from office politics or simply for fulfillment.

Career coach Marianne Cantwell defines portfolio careerists as free-range humans who are notpenned into an unhappy job-cage.” Contrast this with Cantwell’s “battery-cage humans” who see limited options for their careers, forced only to seek out particular types of jobs. It’s perhaps an unfair contrast, but fundamentally, it’s about choosing who you work for and what you do, as opposed to being imprisoned by rigidly defined roles.

Elsewhere, Ledger suggests there are common qualities shared by successful practitioners of portfolio careers and helps readers evaluate whether they’re suitable for such a mode of work.

Read more at “Portfolio Careers: Creating a Career of Multiple Part-Time Jobs” and subscribe to the Portfolio Careers blog.

Do you have a portfolio career? How do you manage your various portfolio roles?


Laura Brown

Delighted to find a new description of the way I’ve been working for awhile now – a portfolio career. I have been a business technology consultant for many years (, and in last 3 years have added nutrition and lifestyle coaching to my portfolio. I also am an organic vegetable grower, and have a small business there. Add several web properties and affiliate relationships and it’s a full portfolio.

How do I manage? that is the tricky part. When I learned in a corporate setting to manage a large and fast-moving technology project, I learned it’s not about controlling everything, but rather harnessing and directing the forces available. That’s what I try to do with emerging tech and opportunities, and sometimes they just take on a life of their own. That’s okay!


Dr Barrie Hopson

Delighted to read your observations about portfolio careers and thank you too for highlighting our book ( I wrote this with Katie). We are getting an enormous response to this subject including from the US. The book should be published there in the spring but I see is already on Do have a look at our new website on this topic and there are already some fascinating discussion topics starting up in our LinkedIn portfolio careers group.


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I think as soon as you specialize in something your portafolio would become more and more interesting to other people as time goes by :) I think everything is about how well you can compete against others with the skills you have earned over time maybe you are not good at something but you rock in other and that’s all you need to keep clients coming :)

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