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Is a Portfolio Career Right For You?

Is a Portfolio Career Right For You?

By Denene Brox

You've probably heard of having a portfolio of financial investments, but how about having a portfolio career? Just like in the financial world where you diversify your investments, a portfolio career allows you to use various skills to earn multiple sources of income.

This type of career is not for the faint of heart, or for those who lack motivation. But if you just can't seem to nail down one career path, and have a high risk tolerance, this may be the perfect career for you.

Making Variety Work

"The term 'portfolio career' generally refers to a career that has multiple strands with more than one source of income," says career coach and licensed psychotherapist Nina Ham. The format can be to combine traditional employment with contract work or self-employment (for instance a home-based Web design business), or to combine sequential projects or even to rotate seasonally (e.g. technical writing in the winter, garden design for spring and summer), Ham says. "The possible combinations are infinite," she says.

Ham notes that someone interested in a portfolio career should be independent, well-organized and adaptable. "Also being comfortable identifying as a maverick, not defined by any recognized career label, will make you less likely to cringe at the 'What do you do?' question," she says.

Three Key Questions

If this sounds like your ideal way to work, here are some tough questions to ask yourself to help determine if a portfolio career is right for you:

  • Am I Highly Motivated? You may have many different skills and passions, but managing several different jobs at once takes a lot of self-motivation, especially since you won't always have a boss looking over your shoulder. Make sure that you enjoy and thrive on variety, change and the unexpected.
  • Do I Like Networking? Marketing yourself is a key component of a portfolio career because you have to constantly drum up new work. Katie Ledger, who works as a communications coach and TV reporter for BBC Click notes that you should plan to invest considerable time and effort in marketing yourself. Networking is a natural part of any job change but portfolio careers will demand more networking and marketing than those in traditional careers.
  • Do I Have Ample Savings? Financial uncertainty is one of the biggest drawbacks with managing a portfolio career. As an entrepreneur you'll be responsible for your own health insurance costs, retirement savings, taxes and other expenses. Having enough of an emergency fund, ideally six to eight months of living expenses, will help as you're building your different projects. Finding a part-time job with benefits is a way to offset some of the financial costs.

By answering these questions honestly, you'll know if this is the right career design for you. A portfolio career can be a rewarding way to approach work, and having multiple ways of branding your skills can be a great antidote to today's uncertain job market.

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