Do you feel like your work matters? Are you making an impact? Living your why? Are you in that sweet, self-actualised spot in the Bullseye of your Ikigai?
If you answered ‘Um, no’ to any of those questions, it might be worth considering a rethink and recalibration of your working life to design your very own personalised and rewarding portfolio career, so you can work to your purpose, play to your strengths – and wake up every day to a career that lights you up!
So what is a portfolio career anyway?
According to Forbes, a portfolio career is a working style where you combine multiple streams of income – often creating a mix of full or part-time employment, board positions, specialised skill-based project roles or working as a consultant.
Unlike a full-time job, app-based gig economy mix or a freelance blend of projects in a particular sector or market segment, a portfolio career is not reliant on a single source of income and can play across multiple sectors.
The secret sauce of a successful portfolio career is that you know your true value; you are absolutely your own boss; and you know how to distribute your time, skills and value across multiple roles whilst liaising with multiple clients and stakeholders.
A good way to think about a portfolio career is to apply portfolio theory to its construction. In other words, instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, a portfolio career is thoughtfully curated across a range of differentiated services in order to maximise earnings, and – just like an investment portfolio – is always evolving based on where the returns on your time are driving the highest rewards – financially, professionally or personally.
Why I choose to make my work work my way
I have been a long-time convert of the portfolio career. This is in the main because as a working parent of four fast-moving kids, I have had to find a way to work my way, design a career that best utilises my my skill mix, and that enables me to work on value (and not time-based) metrics. This has meant a curated mix of stints in corporate, startup investment, consultancies, my own companies and Non-Executive Board advisory roles.
But like the rest of the world at large, 2020 threw a wicked pandemic spanner in the works which catalysed a reconstruction of my work portfolio on the fly. Luckily, because of my portfolio career, I’m used to agility and adaptation so could respond and redesign according to the opportunities the COVID world catalysed in the edtech sector. Which means that now we’re into the (fingers crossed) smoother sailing waters of 2021, this year my portfolio is deliberately dominated by our work at Future Amp, given the company is in a significant growth phase as we move toward national pilot release of our smart career education platform.
While Future Amp takes up the bulk of my days, my portfolio also includes active roles as an investor with Working Theory Angels and in a private capacity; mentoring startup founders; Cofounder and CEO of girledworld; Board advisory roles; Cohost of the Human Cogs podcast; and I continue to work across media commentary, writing and keynote speaking. These roles – while seperate in their activities – are all synergistic in their value alignment to my personal Ikigai. And it’s entirely up to me to manage my prioritisation, productivity and portfolio segmentation based on those pieces of the pie.
Listen to ABC ‘This Working Life’ Interview (March 15, 2021)
I recently joined ABC’s This Working Life and host Lisa Leong to chat about my portfolio career alongside Dorie Clark – sought after New York-based executive coach and consultant – who explains how the portfolio model saved her in 2020 when hundreds of thousands of dollars income dried up almost overnight. In the interview, Dorie also shares her blueprint for professional independence, including insights and advice on becoming a recognised expert, monetising your expertise, and extending your reach and impact online.
The portfolio career is here to stay
As we all concur in the show, the case for the rise of the Portfolio Career is more than a stop-gap against the current pandemic-swamped disrupted and unpredictable marketplace.
With industries growing and shrinking, startups hiring and supply chains morphing, organisations need fresh and flexible talent to plug and play to solve for a fresh suite of business problems – and opportunities – that are not going to go away any time soon. Instead of hiring for permanent roles, we’re seeing an increasing demand in the market for consultants, short-term contractors, interim managers, advisors, industry experts and other independent professionals, who move around based on the market dynamics and demands.
In fact, a recent OECD Future of Work study predicts that 50% of developed country workforces will be gig and portfolio career workers by 2030, and Australian demographer and social commentator Bernard Salt predicts the average 20-year-old in Australia today will have 20 jobs in 15 different organisations over a 45-year career. So the reality is that even if you wanted to, it is very unlikely you will spend your entire career in one industry, let alone in one company. And that the portfolio career will increasingly become the norm in the future of work.
This means that with entire industries transforming and at risk as AI, machine learning, autonomous vehicles and other exponential technologies go from the fringe to mainstream, the writing is also clearly on the wall that specialising in just one industry could be limiting at best and catastrophic at worst (traditional law or media, truck driving, basic accounting services etc).
So to future proof your working life, a diversification across a range of transferable future skills, industries, companies and roles is the only way to stay relevant in the shifting sands of the modern economy and marketplace, and to ride out the precarity of the new job market that’s most certainly here to stay.
As Charles Darwin said: ““It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”