My win today is being introduced to the term “portfolio career.” This term describes making a career of doing various part-time, consulting or freelance jobs simultaneously OR of having a full-time job along with other side job(s). It is the antithesis of the traditional linear “career path” that I envisioned having post-graduation. This term legitimizes having a multifaceted career and shows that it may be a conscious choice, rather than simply a result of not finding one’s “true passion.” It proves that this lifestyle is not necessarily a temporary hurdle to overcome due to circumstances such as job loss or the inability to get a high paying job in one’s field. Instead it can be a fulfilling and lucrative career path.
As someone who did theater, played rugby, was in a sorority, volunteered, interned, and worked throughout college, I obviously crave variety! (And perhaps am a bit crazy). The thought of doing the same thing day in and day out has never appealed to me. Until hearing this term and doing some research on it, I had always thought that my desire to not settle down and climb the corporate ladder was immature, unrealistic, and made me indecisive. I have continuously been searching for the right career: one that could make me happy and financially stable in the long term.
Although I have enjoyed several of the jobs that I’ve had thus far, including my current job, I cannot imagine doing any one job five days per week for the next 40+ years. I had previously thought my only alternative would be to change careers every once in a while. I had heard a statistic that most twenty and thirty-somethings will have seven different careers throughout our lives, and thought that I’d likely be one of them. However, having to start at the bottom and work my way up in a new industry every five to ten years did not seem ideal either. The thought of exploring several mini-careers simultaneously, however, is very intriguing.
My research on portfolio careers has helped me realize that I am not alone in struggling to commit to one career, and that I no longer need to force myself into the box of choosing a traditional path and advancing in the field that I select. Instead, I can either advance in one career while having others on the side, or simply have several “side jobs” that are each pieces of my career puzzle.
According to an article in Forbes, portfolio careers are becoming increasingly popular and can actually be more lucrative than traditional careers. All of the individuals that Erin Albert studied for her book “Plan C: The Full-Time Employee and Part-Time Entrepreneur” were making more money within two years of beginning their portfolio career than they had working a typical nine to five only. (Remember this means they are also working 1.5 jobs as well). Rather than having all of their eggs in one basket, portfolio career-ers have the security of having other skills and jobs to rely on if one job fails or industry crashes. A lay-off is not quite as bad since they have a second or third income source that remains intact. Having a portfolio career also expands and diversifies their professional networks, making it much easier to land another job if necessary.
Of course maintaining a portfolio career does not seem to be a cake walk either. I imagine it would take a lot of self-motivation, ingenuity and time management. It also requires both confidence that when one gig ends another one can be found, and the foresight to save enough money to sustain any gaps between jobs. This career path is not for everyone, but for a person with multiple passions, who craves variety and has the organizational skills, courage and motivation – it could be a great option.
I am certainly not prepared to jump ship from my current job anytime soon, but will explore some of the other interests that I have, and see where life takes me. For now, just the thought of having other options, and not having to apologize for my inability to commit to one job for the rest of my life, is a relief. Having a portfolio career would not make me any less successful, goal oriented, or financially secure; and perhaps it would be just what I need to stay engaged, motivated and fulfilled for the remainder of my working life. I am not one dimensional; why does my career need to be?