Last Updated May 2, 2007 7:12 PM EDT
Job satisfaction takes many forms. For some people, it means a relatively secure income;
for others, it means the opportunity to concentrate on a single, interesting and meaningful
career. Then there are those for whom job satisfaction comes from having a variety of
careers (either all at once or one after the other) that allow them to earn a livelihood
exploring a wide world of interests.
Critics of this approach to career development
may see it as unfocused and directionless, but the single most compelling argument against a
portfolio career is its lack of job security. The so-called "job for life" is virtually
extinct, however. So why suppress your curiosity in favor of an illusion? Why not use this
as an opportunity to enjoy the adventures, sights, experiences, and diversity of modern
life? In fact, portfolio career practitioners who have also had traditional careers say they
feel more secure having multiple income sources than they did when they were dependent on
the continuing good will and loyalty of a single income source. You may be self-employed and
indulging your passions and spirit of adventure, but that does not necessarily mean that you
have to sacrifice financial reward. You may actually make more money than you would in a
If you are considering a portfolio career, ask yourself the following
- How high is your tolerance for uncertainty and insecurity?
- Do you relish change and meeting new people?
important to you is the social life and intimacy of being a regular member of a single
someone who flits from job to job, or as someone who just can't hold down a job?
An overall sense of purpose and the big picture is what separates you from
the dabblers. You can dabble and experiment to your heart's content, but when you think
about or discuss your work, always regard your portfolio career as a unified whole, rather
than as a simple collection of "odd jobs."
not working at the moment, and now is a bad time to find a full time job in my industry. How
can I improve my marketability for when I'm back on the job market?
strategic approach to designing your portfolio career. Each assignment you accept should
give you additional information, experience, or exposure to key players in your industry.
Varied experience within a single industry will give you a better understanding of important
trends in that industry. Therefore, you will be better qualified for strategic positions
later. Industry experts who have a bird's-eye view often command higher
have a full-time job?
Yes. Your full-time job could be the keystone to your
portfolio career as you build your résumé of ever-increasing experience, responsibility, and
variety. Or you can build a portfolio career as a sideline, using your spare time and energy
to develop passions that are either related or entirely unrelated to your full-time
not have to take an all-or-nothing approach to a portfolio career by announcing publicly
that you are now fully committed to self-employment. While portfolio careers often entail at
least one independent source of income, they do not require you to abandon a full-time job
that provides financial security.
Your portfolio career will continue to evolve over time, but it is
important to at least start with a general idea of what you want the big career picture to
look like once you have put all the pieces together. A portfolio career requires that,
ultimately, your varied experiences and skills be unified into an overall career path. So
ask yourself, "What do I want to be all about?" and keep that question foremost in your mind
as your portfolio career progresses and jobs keep coming your
Socialize, and volunteer to assist in situations in which you can meet
industry leaders and key decision-makers. Play as much of a role as you can in your local
When you are offered a job, be appropriately businesslike. Read
industry publications and books. Stay current with trends and speak knowledgeably of the
strategic issues facing your industry.
You need to manage your time. No one is looking over your shoulder
to see that you are working. Unnecessary hours spent in front of the television or reading
may prove to be time-expensive luxuries that you can no longer
As you become increasingly successful and popular you will have to
learn to balance the temptations of pursuing exciting opportunities with staying focused on
your overall career theme. Choose carefully, but at the same time explore the really
tempting offers. Your reason for saying "Yes" may become apparent later; you may meet an
important person or learn a new skill that will open doors to exciting new
You may not see exactly where your career path is leading you. But if
you keep a journal, you will create a map for retrospective analysis and by looking back,
you will understand the larger purpose of your
be the only person you know who is following a crazy, zigzag career path. You may be alone
in your values and the choices you make. Choosing this way of working sometimes has high
costs. But one reward completely within your control is your ability to enjoy the process.
Benefits will be available to you only if you have a sense of independence, which often
comes with having an independent source of income: the ability to pick and choose your
assignments; the chance to live in or travel to beautiful parts of the world; and the chance
to move freely through corporate hierarchies meeting exciting and powerful people up and
down the ranks of organizations.
your adventure with a cushion of six months' living expenses, if you can. Additionally,
follow the practices of management consultants whenever possible: they sell their services
by the value of results (not by tasks or time) and they insist on at least 50% in advance of
is possible to become overburdened. It is hard to turn down work, especially if you are
unsure when and from where the next opportunity will come, but overburdening yourself robs
you of the benefits of the very lifestyle and work style you sought. For the sake of your
mental and physical health, take time off and get plenty of exercise and
Employees who work full-time in a congenial work environment have
the advantage of everyday camaraderie, companionship, and creative synergy. As a portfolio
careerist, you need to make sure your business and social networks are current and thriving.
You need friends with whom to share ideas with or simply
If you worked full-time for a company, you may have enjoyed
tuition reimbursement benefits. But as a fully self-employed portfolio careerist, it is your
responsibility to make sure your skills are current and marketable, and it may also be your
responsibility to pay for your necessary continuing
Nation, How America's New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live. New
York: Warner Books, 2001.