Is a Portfolio Career less Professional?

The power of pursuing a portfolio career — despite what ‘they’ might say!

“Portfolio careers allow you to explore a variety of opportunities, build diverse skills, and pursue multiple passions simultaneously. By not pigeonholing yourself into a single career path, you can create a fulfilling and sustainable career that aligns with your values and goals.” — Valerie Young

Have you been put off pursuing a portfolio career because of a fear that it will make you appear less professional?

Do you worry that doing ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’ sends a message that you can’t focus on one thing or that you’re not dedicated to your main career.

But — I have a sense that this couldn’t be further from the truth. I was inspired to record a short podcast episode on this topic too – listen here.

In fact, having multiple income streams can actually make you a more well-rounded and successful professional.

First — let me define what I mean by ‘portfolio career’ –

A portfolio career involves working in multiple jobs simultaneously or sequentially, often in different fields or industries, rather than pursuing a traditional single career path with a single employer. It offers greater flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance by creating a portfolio of work that includes freelance work, consulting, part-time or temporary jobs, entrepreneurship, and other forms of self-employment.

You might be employed and considering going part-time in multiple jobs.

You might be employed and considering going part-time and pursuing a hobby that might become an income generator.

You might be a business owner who is hiding the fact that you have more than one freelance occupation — in connected or disconnected areas of work.

The point is — why hide? Why feel this career choice makes you somehow ‘less than’?

No good reason — other than what I call the FIBs — fears, illusions and baggage!

Let’s consider some benefits of a portfolio career.

  1. Diversification: By having multiple income streams, you’re not relying on one source of income to support yourself. If one stream dries up, you still have others to fall back on. This diversification can provide a sense of financial security and stability.
  2. Increased income: The more income streams you have, the more money you can potentially make. This can help you pay off debt, save for a down payment on a house, or even retire early.
  3. Personal development: Pursuing multiple income streams can also help you develop new skills and interests. Whether it’s starting a side business or freelancing in a new field, you’ll have the opportunity to learn new things and expand your horizons.
  4. Entrepreneurial mindset: Pursuing multiple income streams requires an entrepreneurial mindset. You’ll need to be able to identify opportunities and take calculated risks. This mindset can be applied to your main career as well, making you a more valuable employee or business owner.
  5. Flexibility: Having multiple income streams can also provide more flexibility in your work life. You may be able to work from home or set your own schedule, which can help you achieve a better work-life balance.

You could say that having multiple income streams can make you a more successful and well-rounded professional — but the crucial element is ‘you’! What works for YOU?

If you are happy in a single focussed career path or business — great!

However — if you have a squashing sense that you are pigeonholing yourself — it’s never too late to try new things!

Explore different opportunities and diversify your income streams.

The downsides of sitting squashed in a pigeonhole.

  1. Missed Opportunities: Pigeonholing oneself can limit your exposure to new opportunities. When you only focus on one area, you might miss out on other possibilities that could have been more fulfilling or lucrative.
  2. Career Stagnation: When you pigeonhole yourself, you risk getting stuck in one role or career path. Over time, you may find that you’re no longer passionate about what you do or that you’ve hit a career ceiling.
  3. Skillset Obsolescence: Focusing on only one area can cause your skills to become obsolete over time. As technology advances and the job market changes, you may find that your skills are no longer in demand, making it harder to pivot to other areas.
  4. Burnout: Focusing exclusively on one area can also lead to burnout. If you’re doing the same thing day in and day out, you may become disengaged and demotivated. Over time, burnout can lead to mental and physical health problems.
  5. Lack of Creativity: When you only have one area of focus, it can be difficult to think outside the box. Pigeonholing oneself can limit creativity and prevent you from finding innovative solutions to problems.

The upsides of flying out of the pigeonhole:

  1. Having multiple career paths can help you build a broader skill set and gain experience in different areas.
  2. Pursuing different interests and passions can help you avoid burnout and keep you motivated.
  3. Pursuing a portfolio career can help you find work that aligns with your values and goals.

Oh — and how great to be paid for doing what you love!

PLUS — this little bonus upside: –

If one job or career path does not work out, you will have other options to fall back on. Say goodbye to the fear of unemployment!

Don’t let society pressure you into sticking to one career path. Reflect, experiment and explore!

Word of warning — don’t spread yourself too thin.

So —

Is it less professional to have a portfolio career?

No, having a portfolio career is not less professional. In fact, many professionals today are turning to portfolio careers as a way to pursue their passions, build their skill set, and achieve greater flexibility and work-life balance.

Working in different fields can expose you to new opportunities for growth and development, helping you build a more fulfilling and rewarding career over time.

Having a portfolio career is a professional and viable career path — if it is right for you. Don’t fall into the should traps set by others.

By diversifying your income, building a diverse skill set, and embracing new opportunities for growth, you can create a rewarding and fulfilling career that aligns with your values and goals.

Exploring your FIBs that are holding you back — unsquashing your self-belief — these are things I create resources on and explore with clients.

I also explore inner barriers — self-inflicted ‘self-squashing’ traps, in my book ‘The Mystery of the Squashed Self’ and my TEDx talk — ‘Beware the Self Squashing Prophecy’.