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ImagePeter Cobbe offers some tips on how to build a career that encompasses taking on many different types of work

'Determine to live life with flair and laughter' - Maya Angelou

Today, multiple factors encourage the development of portfolio lives. For example, the increasing cost and complexity of travel, the growing technological ease of mobile working, the drive by organisations to reduce overheads and use a flexible workforce, the desire for autonomy and a new lifestyle balance by many people.

A portfolio career is not a simple option or the same as managing three jobs and wishing you had one. Some portfolio careers are mixtures of freelance and voluntary commitments; others are grounded in conventional roles. A real benefit can be that following such a career enables use of a variety of enjoyable skills, whilst aligning with personal values and motivation.

A Balanced Lifestyle Applying Various Skills

Portfolio lifestyles, carefully thought through and implemented, can suit any age group and are not just the province of semi-retired people

Typical definitions of this approach include:
  1. A portfolio career is the pursuit of more than one income source simultaneously, usually by applying the various skills you've developed throughout your career to different types of work. For example, you could combine consulting with part-time work, teaching at a local college and freelance writing. You could use your speaking and facilitation skills to lead workshops at companies or educational institutions. You could even develop your own product or service.
  2. A Portfolio lifestyle involves a balanced lifestyle including earning your income from a variety of sources. For example, you might work on freelance contracts or as a part-time employee for several organisations, and perhaps also run a business.

In this way of working, income is gained from several sources. This approach to working is popular with those who have specific skills that are in demand by different organisations. At different times you might combine self-employment with, for example, short-term contracts or part-time, temporary or project work.

Each job adds skills and experience to your portfolio and this type of work allows flexibility and can also be secure. Also, in working this way, a balance can be struck between paid and unpaid work and an improved lifestyle.

Success Factors

Working with several clients I have noticed that some attributes or qualities help to underpin success in holding down a portfolio career, including:

  • some risk tolerance and courage
  • high self motivation and resilience
  • adequate personal finances
  • curious and forever interested in continuous personal development
  • an entrepreneurial mindset
  • good interpersonal , self marketing and networking skills,
  • seeking appropriate support from others
  • willingness to take on new challenges
  • ability to multi-task.

If you are considering a portfolio approach, an effective initial stage is to reflect carefully and consider the following questions:

  • What aspects of my personality and values help me to be a good fit for specific components of my portfolio?
  • What existing skills and experience should I capitalise on?
  • What interests or hobbies might I expand on or cultivate further?
  • What new education might I need to complete?
  • What new skills or experience might I need if I want to include in my portfolio an area of interest or something totally new to me?
  • How will I research and test different possibilities?
  • What balance do I want between leisure, family, friends and work time?
  • What are my financial requirements in order to support myself and my family?
  • What resources and support can I call on as I make this journey?
  • What financial investment might I need?
  • What systems and infrastructure will I need in place?
  • Can I generate passive sources of income?
Taking Action

'An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.' - Engels

Having thought through and settled on at least some initial portfolio components, you are ready to:

  • Research the enablers for that option
  • Understand the time commitments involved
  • Estimate any costs involved and income generated where appropriate
  • Develop an implementation plan
  • Move to implementation - learning as you do so

A portfolio approach implies an ongoing, flexible and exciting journey. The components of your portfolio can change and evolve.

Some components can be removed if they are not meeting your needs or criteria and new components can be added as you learn more and discover new possibilities. In this sense, it is worth reviewing and evaluating progress at key stages to see what needs to change as well as being constantly curious and actively researching new possibilities.

Image Peter Cobbe is an accredited coach with over 10 years of coaching experience and an associate consultant with Penna (UK) dealing with career, life, executive and business coaching and counselling. A member of the CIPD, International Coaching Federation and Association for Coaching, he works in mentoring and coaching partnerships with executives to help achieve gains of importance to them. Peter publishes a Portfolio Career site: (http://portfoliocareerandlifestyle.coachingcosmos.com/index.html) and offers a holistic and systematic approach to coaching for executive performance (http://petercobbecoaching.coachingcosmos.com/index.html)
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