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?

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