Career Coaching

3 Steps to finding what lights a fire inside you - Portfolio Careers Part 3

By: Dale Simpson

Perhaps you are thinking some more income could be handy, or perhaps you need more variety, stimulation or challenge in your work.  Or maybe you are wanting to bring more of yourself into your work,  venture into helping others with community-oriented work, or working at things that fulfill you more creatively mentally or spiritually. Maybe it is all of the above. 

Whatever your motivation it can be daunting to consider how to take that first leap into a life where your unique skills meet your deepest passions.  Your search for purpose, or as the Japanese call it, your Ikigai, starts with one small step - exploring ideas around both what you are skilled at and what lights a fire inside you.

Where to begin...

1 Take inventory

Start by taking an inventory of your skills, interests and passions. Taking an inventory may start with identifying those achievements you have both excelled at and enjoyed, then unpacking these to identify the skills you brought to bear in making it happen. These might then be paired with the areas of life that bring you the greatest fulfilment - maybe leveraging technology effectively, social causes, community endevaours or creative expression. 

Unpacking the elements that sparked joy are your signposts to determine the areas where you excel and enjoy working. It's important to focus on what either comes naturally to you or inspires you, as this will make it easier for you to develop new skills in those areas. 

Perhaps you are 

These are all examples of how by identifying your strengths and interests, you can expand these out into wider vistas of possibility and areas of passion, before you narrow down the skills you want to focus on developing for your portfolio career.


2 Other exploration 


Some other ways to explore ideas for your portfolio career include asking friends and family for their thoughts and suggestions. They may have a different perspective on your strengths and interests that you haven't considered before. 

Brainstorming can also be a helpful tool in generating new ideas. Set aside some time to sit down with a pen and paper, or use an online brainstorming tool, and write down any ideas that come to mind. Don't worry about the feasibility or practicality of each idea at this stage - just let your creativity flow.

Additionally, researching online can provide you with inspiration and insights into potential opportunities for a portfolio career. You can explore job boards and freelance websites to see what types of jobs are in demand, as well as read articles and blogs about successful portfolio careers.

A session with a career coach of course can also help you identify your strengths and interests and guide you in exploring potential avenues for a portfolio career. Coaches can provide valuable insights and advice on how to market yourself, develop new skills, and create a plan for success. You will be delighted by what you don’t expect, so keep an open mind.


3 Who wants what I offer?

Once you have identified the skills you wish to develop further, you do need to research the current market demand for those skills. This will help you understand which areas to prioritise and where there is potential for growth in your chosen area.

Look to and preferably meet with other people who are already doing this kind of work. What are their successes and challenges? How do they market themselves, and what platforms do they use to reach potential clients or customers? This can give you valuable insights and ideas for your own business model.

Attend conferences, workshops, or webinars and join social media groups, and professional associations related to your chosen area of interest. Not only will you gain new knowledge and skills and keep abreast of current trends, but it's also a great opportunity to network with other professionals and potentially find new clients or even collaborators. 

Always utilise online resources such as job boards, freelancing platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, and industry-specific websites to search for opportunities in your field. This will help you gain an understanding of the current rates and expectations for work in your chosen niche.

Of course, sometimes these opportunities can unfold naturally, as a consequence of our curiosity or helpfulness. I have a friend addicted to the show Mary Portas secret shopper, and being a keen veteran shopper herself,  found herself offering unsolicited advice to stall holders at her local market on their layout in terms of engagement with market-goers and promotion. 

At first, she offered this advice for free until other stall holders started "picking her brains" and she realised there was a demand for her insights. Through word of mouth she gained three clients within a few months.  

Another colleague had health issues forcing her to explore natural remedies over many years, which transformed into a deep desire to share this knowledge with others. It led her to complete a qualification in Nutritional Medicine while continuing ‘day job’ of developing training content for a large corporation, soon to become a free-lancing option rather than full-time she tells us as her health coaching builds and she uses her skill in writing to develop content for her health practice as well! 


The secret sauce to success is your willingness to be curious, experimental and resilient. Accept that you may fail spectacularly, and more than once, before you find your feet in this new career frame. 

The choice is yours on how you want to look back on your life and how fully you lived in, and through, what you did. 

You're not supposed to die with your potential. 

A life well lived squeezes all the potential placed within and does something with it. 


Erwin McManus

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