A year or so before I broke up with my therapist, I arrived at one of our bi-monthly sessions one day, plopped myself down, and announced that we’d be discussing career change. It was a few months after I’d been laid off from my job, and I was beginning to contemplate my next professional move.

“I just don’t know how to pull it all together,” I moaned. “I mean, how do you combine writing, editing, coaching, delivering insight, and project management all into one job description? What job is that?”

She looked at me quizzically. “Why would you want to do only one thing with your life?”

To paraphrase Buddha: When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

With that one simple question, my therapist got me thinking usefully about portfolio careers again.

The Rise of the Portfolio Career

Portfolio careers have been the new black for some time now in the work world. Technological change, flexible working arrangements, the demand for highly specialised skills and the evolving appeal of work-life balance mean that more people now have jobs that blend a number of roles.

In the UK where I live, for example, one in five British people are expected to earn money from a secondary form of employment by 2030.

Portfolio careers are proving particularly appealing with older workers, a category in which I proudly count myself. Precisely because we’re all living longer than ever before, there’s no reason for people to stop working at 65 – or 75 for that matter!

And who knows how long current pension schemes will sustain us?

Diversifying Risk

Many workers, like myself, are pursuing portfolio careers out of economic necessity. It’s often the best way to hedge against financial risk.

My own portfolio career as a communications professional comprises three main verticals, with a fourth in development. My main income stream comes from offering soft skills training of various sorts, principally in writing, speaking, and blogging.

At the same time, I supplement my training work with a fair amount of editing.

I’ve also started work as a writing coach. This is a hybrid of the first two. It combines some of the line-editing and writing tips that come with being an editor, with the motivational aspects of the workshop facilitator.

Finally, I’m also training as a public speaking coach, a fourth income stream I hope to leverage in the new year.

Finding Balance

I think a lot of ‘silverpreneurs’ embrace portfolio careers for reasons that extend way beyond our pocketbooks. As we age, portfolio careers also offer a greater degree of autonomy… and fulfillment.

In my own case, I’ve never fully managed to reconcile my manager and maker selves in one integrated whole. So doing a job that combines the deeply-focused, puzzle-solver of the editor with the animated cheerleader of the coach and the supportive nurturer of the teacher is a perfect blend of who I really am.

I’ve also come to realize that although personality tests repeatedly confirm that I’m an extrovert, there’s an introvert in there screaming (quietly) to assert herself as well. The introvert welcomes those days when she gets to stay at home in her pajamas, poring over a text to make it read better.

She doesn’t always need to be on the stage. She likes downtime and peace and quiet too. So that sort of balance is equally important to me in this new phase of life.

I used to think that finding the right career simply boiled down to figuring out what you like and what you’re good at and where those intersect. I now think it’s also about finding a job – or, more precisely, set of jobs – that speak to the different strands of your personality as well.

What are your thoughts on the portfolio career? Would you consider moving to that kind of self-employment rather than retirement? Please share your thoughts below!

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