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Many Passions? Try Portfolio Career

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Realising creative potential is paramount to overall life satisfaction. Most of us struggle to pursue all our passions and feel limited by the 9-5 jobs that eats up most of the productive hours. Could portfolio career be an answer?

Professional woman looking ahead in London
Combining multiple careers instead of pursuing just one could be the answer to realising your full potential

Growing life expectancy will change our lives

Realising creative potential is paramount to overall life satisfaction. Most of us struggle to pursue all our passions and feel limited by the 9-5 jobs that eats up most of the productive hours.

In addition, with life longevity growing every year, those in 20s and 30s today will likely live until 100 years old or longer. This will have a profound impact on many areas of our lives.

For example, it might be trickier to sustain a relationship for 70 years or you will need a lot more savings to still retire at the age of 65. The traditional 3-staged life of ‘Education – Working years – Retirement’ will not work anymore.

If you are planning to continue working all the way into your 80s, it is likely you will need to get re-skilled along the way to keep up with changing workforce requirements.

While all this might sound scary, good news is – you will have a lot more time to pursue many more careers that interest you. Could portfolio career be the future of work and the key to improved life satisfaction?

What is a portfolio career and is it right for you?

Portfolio career is having several careers at a time, instead of one.

Just like with polyamorous relationship, if you are familiar with those, there is no one size fits all when it comes to portfolio careers. There many ways in which you can build your portfolio career.

For example, you can spend 3 days a week working as a freelance business consultant, 1 day as a lecturer at the university and the remaining time running your very successful Instagram account.

Or you may choose to be an artist, writer, blogger, life coach and yoga teacher at the same time fluidly moving between each career, driven by the priorities.

How can portfolio career help you realise your potential?

Do you remember, when you were a child, you did so many different things throughout the day? First you built a big brick tower, then you dug a whole in the ground in the backyard hoping to grow an apple tree by planting a seed. After lunch you organised your friends to play hide and seek and, in the evening, delivered a multi-disciplinary performance for your parents.

Can you recall the feeling after a day like this?

You likely were in the ‘flow’ throughout all those activities. Being overwhelmingly consumed by the excitement of each one. You were tapping into your talents and passions each minute throughout the day. Isn’t it wonderful?

It is in our nature to have many talents. It is hardly possible to find a job where you will realise your full potential. Even in my very exciting and creative job as an innovation consultant, where I had to plan, think creatively, draw, talk to people and solve problems, I felt there is so much more I want to be and do.

Yet, we are meant to be monogamous about our jobs. We can all collectively thank Adam Smith for figuring out that labour division increases productivity. Now, we are a bunch of very productive, but rather unhappy individuals.

Back in time, Leonardo da Vinci, who was not familiar with Smith’s theory had a portfolio career and didn’t have a though he was doing something outrageous. Could you be the next Leonardo da Vinci?

Is portfolio career right for you?

What could be a sign that a portfolio career is right up your street? If you have a full-time job and many hobbies on a side that you are seriously pursuing and seriously excited about, portfolio career might be perfect for you.

When I had a 60-hour a week full-time job as an innovation consultant, I still managed to squeeze in a few serious hobbies. I practiced yoga daily before work and worked on my paintings at least few hours a week. Not to mention all the other things I was dying to do but didn’t have time.

When I first heard of a term ‘portfolio career’ I got very excited. I could vividly imagine how I start my day by teaching a yoga class, followed by writing and painting and maybe a few meetings with start-up founders in the afternoon.

A young woman working on computer in a coworking space in Seoul
Combining all of my passions in a portfolio career sounded like a dream

This became my vision, or a North Star. Something I am working on building ever since. So, if you are like me, and have a few careers you’ve always dreamt of, maybe portfolio career is the answer.

How can you build a portfolio career?

This all sounds great, you might think, but how does it work in practice?

First step is to decide on what careers to include in your portfolio. Do an ‘Imaginary lives’ exercise. Imagine yourself in 5 parallel universes. In each of those universes, you have a year to pursue any career. What would it be?

Once you have the list of careers you would like to explore, the key is to not overthink it. This might lead to procrastination. The approach to take is ‘act now – think later’. In business, this is also called lean experimentation. You define a few ideas, go and test them to learn what works and what doesn’t.

If you decide to give portfolio career a go, you can consider a few options:

  • If it’s a whole new career, you will need to do a lot of research, networking, building credentials. And that requires time. If you are not ready to quit your full-time job yet, a sabbatical might be a good option.

  • If sabbatical seems radical, or your company doesn’t offer one, you can start building your new career on a side. For me personally, this was hard. I hardly had any time or energy left outside of my job. If your job is less demanding or energy consuming, it might be a good less radical option for you.

  • If you are curious and maybe would like to give portfolio career a go in the future, but not yet ready to commit, you can start with conversational research. Find a few people who work in the field you are interested in and learn as much as you can about the pros, cons and realities of that career.

To define my portfolio career, I used a combination of those tools. I took a sabbatical few year back to attend art courses and spent a lot of time working on my art. I pursued a few hobbies next to my full-time job and did a lot of conversational research.

In the end, it became clear – I wanted to give a portfolio career a real go.

I quit my consulting job and gave myself a year and a fixed amount of savings to spend to see if I can build a portfolio career for myself.

How I am building my portfolio career

When I started my journey, I had a few careers in mind. I wanted to be an artist and a yoga teacher, a coach a writer, work with start-ups and have my own business, and so much more. It quickly got overwhelming.

What I decided to do – is build my portfolio brick by brick. I spent 3 months working remotely as a digital nomad writing funding proposal for deep-tech start-ups. I became a certified yoga teacher and taught yoga for a month in Thailand (and even made some cash!).

I then took time to launch my artist career - check out my artist website, and a Facebook page. Followed by several months working hard in launching Life Startup and developing a proprietory coaching methodology.

Could this be something for you as well? If you are looking for motivation, inspiration and practical tips, sign-up to receive new posts by email.

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