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I’m a Portfolio Careerist… and I’m Confused!

by Declan Hill

Last week I was chatting with someone about a potential joint venture, and she used the term ‘portfolio career’. I didn’t know what it meant, so, being a man, I ignored it in the hope it would go away. But in my inbox later that day came Beermat Entrepreneur Mike Southon’s regular FT column about the very same subject http://www.mikesouthon.com/mikes-e-zine/ (Pssst… look out for Mike’s forthcoming piece about Sheffield’s MADE Entrepreneur Festival, details here: http://www.madefestival.com/)

A portfolio career, it turns out, is a combination of part-time jobs which then make up a full-time career. And, because the world is our oyster and the future certainly isn’t a clam, we can get paid for doing lots of different things – jobs we like, jobs we suffer and passions that we share with people.

Apparently, ours is the first generation to look upon portfolio careers as an option. Our parents and the generations before us are still of the idea that there’s one job or career for life, while those who are graduating now will have a number of different job centres where they can sign on (if you believe the media). And Europe has led the way with our American cousins looking on, wondering whether or not to bite the polycareerist bullet.

The thing is, now that I’m a fully fledged member of the portfolioso, I don’t know how I feel. Initially, I was relieved. So it wasn’t just me that spent their mornings deciding which job hat they were wearing that day and being schizophrenic when people asked them ‘what they did’, I’d joined a club and it was OK to be a member, I could look my parents in the eye and tell them that I had got a proper job after all. I used to think that I was doing two or three jobs (writer, massage practitioner and theatre producer) because I hadn’t made my mind up which one to take seriously.

Now it’s OK to do all three. And they’ve served me well in the downturn as I was made redundant from one and had the backup of the other two to help tide things over.

But my petty jealousies still exist, even though I’m doing what I love. I bet everyone else who’s chosen the portfolio route is doing really well at it. Yeah, they’re swanning around with fantastically high-paid jobs which means they only have to do one day a week of each, leaving time to put their feet up with a good book or have lunch in the middle of the golf course, while I have to slave away six or seven days a week to make ends meet.

The great thing about a portfolio career is that variety definitely is the spice of life – I’m not locked into one path, whether self-employed or PAYE, and I never get bored or feel I’m on a treadmill. It doesn’t suit everyone and I still need to get the self-organisation licked, but this career path leads in many directions and there’s lots of beautiful scenery.

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