Portfolio Career: Definition, Pros & Cons, and Getting Started
You probably already know that a portfolio is a collection of your work. It’s something you can use with your job application or an interview to prove you’ve got what it takes to do the job. But, do you know what a portfolio career is?
Believe it or not, lots of people have had a portfolio career at some point in their professional journey. It might have been after you graduated from college and had absolutely no idea what you wanted to, or when you were going through a midlife career change.
In the past, a portfolio career was frowned upon, because people worried it made them appear scattered and unfocused. However, these days, the job market is embracing employees with portfolio careers. Employers want to capitalize on the unique and diverse experiences a portfolio careerist has.
But what exactly is a portfolio career? And, more importantly, if you decide it’s the right career path for you, how do you successfully launch your portfolio career?
What Is a Portfolio Career?
A portfolio career is a way to define a career that has encompassed several related or unrelated jobs. Also known affectionately as “slashers,” people with portfolio careers may boast various job titles, like writer/photographer or graphic designer/stylist.
They also hold a variety of job types (full-time, gig worker, freelancer, and so on) and may work various positions simultaneously or at different points in time. For example, a writer might pen articles for an online magazine and write press releases for a corporate business, too. Or a worker might have a full-time job as an account manager that pays the bills but doesn’t soothe their soul, so they pursue their cooking passions with part-time work as a chef at nights and on weekends.
Portfolio Career Benefits
Though a portfolio career is not right for everyone, there are many professional and personal advantages to pursuing one.
Someone with a portfolio career usually has more flexibility to decide when, where, and for whom they work, which can be beneficial for work-life integration. While this may sound like a freelancer (and it can be), portfolio careers can include part-time or full-time roles as well.
Diverse Skill Set
Because a portfolio career exposes you to a variety of fields and positions, you’ll gain many skills and experiences. This unique and diverse background sets you apart from other job seekers. You’ll also develop a lot of transferable skills that will help you jump from career to career.
Extra Cash Flow
Whether it’s the desire for extra spending money, saving for a big trip, or having multiple income streams, someone with a portfolio career is almost always earning money, even if it’s from a small gig.
Maybe you’ve got multiple passions and interests you want to pursue. Instead of focusing your career development on a single subject, a portfolio career helps you explore your varied interests and develop multiple talents.
Test Drive Careers
If you want to change careers but are deciding between a few, a portfolio career can help you test drive several new ones without making a full-time switch until you’re ready. Or, after trying out several careers, you may learn you prefer staying where you are. Thanks to your portfolio career, you’ve got new skills and abilities you can apply to your current job.
No Commitment Required
For some, a long-term commitment just isn’t in the cards, and that’s okay. A portfolio career gives you some of the things a traditional career path does (experience, work history, an income), without forcing you to stay in one lane until you retire.
Protects Your Future
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the whole world can change incredibly quickly. A portfolio career helps you develop a variety of skills and experiences that can help you find a new job, no matter the job market. It can also help you weather any kind of economy. When you’ve got a wide range of experiences, it’s easier to find work in multiple career fields, and if you get laid off or furloughed from one job, you’ll have others to back you up financially.
Cons of a Portfolio Career
Like any career choice, it’s important to understand some of the disadvantages of pursuing a portfolio career.
Balance May Be Elusive
While a portfolio career can give you work-life balance, every day may not be as balanced as you want. Depending on your current set of jobs, you may find yourself working more than you would like.
Lack of Benefits
Again, this can depend on your employment status, but gig workers, freelancers, and part-time workers may not receive benefits (like health insurance or paid time off). They might also have to take care of their own taxes.
Less Chance for Advancement
While it’s not set in stone, those with a portfolio career may find it harder to advance their careers. Unlike a lateral move, which helps you gain new skills at your present career level, a portfolio career means you may never stick around at one job long enough to get promoted. Or, you may work in career fields where there is no room for advancement unless you choose a more traditional path.
Not Widely Embraced
Though companies are embracing portfolio careerists, in some fields, you will find that it hampers your hiring prospects. There will be employers who think your portfolio career means you’re flaky or can’t make a long-term commitment to a job. Some employers may worry you’ll quit too soon because you’ll get bored with the work.
How to Launch Your Portfolio Career
If you decide a portfolio career is right for you, make sure you plan ahead to ensure a smooth launch and ongoing success.
Know Why You’re Doing It
Understand why you want to pursue a portfolio career. Is it for flexibility? Because you’re having trouble deciding on a career path? Having a solid reason why you want a portfolio career will help you plan out your long-term portfolio career path.
Have a clear idea of what “successful” means for you. Will it be when you’ve gained certain skills? When you’re able to pick and choose what jobs you take? Without a clear measure of success, you may find yourself spinning your wheels and unhappy because you don’t know what to do career-wise to achieve success.
You’re not the only person with a portfolio career, so why should someone hire you for the role? Make a compelling case for why your portfolio career is the best. What are the unique and diverse skills that only you have? How will these benefit the employer?
Like in any career, networking is one of the best ways to help you succeed. Take advantage of your various experiences and create a “portfolio network” of people who can help find work, clients, and even offer mentoring and advice.
A Winding Career Path
A portfolio career does not follow a traditional trajectory. A portfolio career is a twisty one that zigs and zags whenever you want it to. And though it may strike some people as strange, a portfolio career may be the exact right career choice that gives you balance, happiness, and success.
If you’re testing the portfolio career waters, or already have an extensive portfolio career, FlexJobs can help you add new jobs to your portfolio. With job postings across 50 career fields, including freelance jobs and part-time jobs, you can connect with the positions that speak to you and ignite your passions.
Not a member? Take the tour and learn more about how FlexJobs can help you connect with a job that’s right for you.
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