How to make the most of portfolio working

Portfolio working is on the rise. We look at the phenomenon and what it means for workers.

Flexible working home office


More and more people are choosing to have multiple part-time jobs rather than one full-time one. Often this is to allow them greater flexibility, whether that is to build a business they are passionate about on the side or manage caring responsibilities.

A recent book not only explores the phenomenon, but advocates it as a positive way of working which brings greater control, freedom and choice in a world where, due to technological change, there is no longer any such thing as a risk-free job.

Portfolio Careers: How to Work for Passion, Pleasure & Profit! is packed with case studies of people from different places and walks of life who have switched from a traditional career to one where they balance multiple roles.

It aims to challenge the reader’s thinking about work rather than be an A-Z guide to career change.

The author Steve Preston  begins with his own story. He spent 30 years working in the corporate travel world before he faced a crossroads and opted for redundancy.

“I wanted to be the architect of my own future,” he says. He didn’t want to go straight into another corporate job so he joined a government back to work scheme after doing a bit of research.

He started to explore his options and was asked to give some management advice along the way and eventually built his own HR and career development consultancy business. He has since developed his own “brand” as an author and expert on career change.

The benefits of doing multiple jobs

For Preston, a big plus of doing multiple jobs is flexibility, but others include freedom, the ability to widen your networks in ways you wouldn’t if you just did one job, the fact that you are constantly learning as well as freedom from the constant stress of many corporate jobs.

It is like pick and mix, says Preston, and, while it might seem risky, he argues that it is actually less so than staying in one job given the way work is changing and given the fact that many of today’s jobs will disappear in the next few decades.

He says the portfolio career ensures you are “future proof”, citing the impact of the 2008 recession as an example of the risks of putting all your eggs in one basket.

So why aren’t more people opting for a portfolio career? One barrier is that people are conditioned to think in terms of traditional jobs, says Preston.

There are also a lot of myths around about portfolio careers, including that they are only for creative types or for women returners who just want to “dabble” and that you can’t earn much money from them.

Preston’s case studies prove the latter is not necessarily the case, but they do not give an unrealistic view of the challenges. They include people who, for example, admit to some of the mistakes they have made along the way.

They are also very varied, for instance, people who have used the portfolio option to “downsize their career and upsize their life”. The model allows people to change pace and blend in different types of work, including non-executive director posts, interim work or volunteering commitments.

Preston is keen to point out that no one size fits all and that the model means people can shape their work according to different aspects of their personality or to their different interests.

The book ends with advice on the practicalities of making a portfolio career work, including how to balance workload if you have multiple roles.

For Preston it is about building a fulfilling career that is fit for the future world of work.

*Portfolio Careers: How to Work for Passion, Pleasure & Profit! by Steve Preston is available on Kindle. [1]

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