Career Development

Portfolio Careers Part 2 - Designing and Crafting Your Portfolio Career

By: Dale Simpson

Before starting, I would like to acknowledge those who added their insights and comments for our last blog. We are not the font of all knowledge and are also here to learn, so thank you.

In simple terms, a portfolio career is a way to define a career that encompasses several related or unrelated jobs. But it is also so much more than that. 


In an interesting HBR article, April Rinne describes how the term portfolio comes from the Italian words 'portare' (to carry) + folio (sheet of paper). We think of a portfolio in terms of finance, business or art. For example: 

There are elements of each of these in a career portfolio however, 

“A career portfolio is different in that it is not a physical entity or system. It’s a new way to think about, talk about, and — most importantly – craft your professional future in order to navigate our ever-changing world of work with purpose, clarity, and  flexibility”

April Rinne, HBR, 2021 Why you should build a portfolio career not a career path.


Purpose, clarity and flexibility. 

Those words speak to me and perhaps they do to you also. 

They speak of autonomy and freedom, giving permission to bring our whole selves into how we “earn a living”, living fully in and through what we do – the Bravo mantra.

Why has a portfolio career become a popular choice? Possibly in part due to a decline of trust in large organisations and political institutions after the 2008 global financial crisis, where many lost their jobs or life savings, through to the uncertainty and fear of the COVID-19 pandemic where people lost not just jobs and autonomy, but loved ones – manifesting in YOLO attitudes to work and life. Although a counterargument here would be to say that organisations are not responsible for one’s career as this rests with the individual.

Couple this with acceleration of technology advances to meet us where we are at in terms of workplaces giving rise to the notion of the digital nomad, the Work From Home brigade and multiple ways to find work through online sites such as Fiverr and Upwork, if you choose to be part of The Gig Economy.  

Not to neglect to mention advances in internet technology giving us unprecedented speed and reach to market ourselves and our work via online mediums such as online publications and social media – and of course the old faithful the website, now offering sophisticated interactivity and visitor personalisation.  

Who best suits a portfolio career?


While anyone can have a portfolio career, it is best suited for those who are self-motivated, adaptable, and have a diverse set of skills and interests. This is because managing multiple jobs requires strong time management, organisation, and the ability to balance different responsibilities, technologies and interactions, as well as the variety of interests and skills we might want to leverage into new career opportunities. 

A portfolio career can and does suit anyone at any age or stage of life. It is a preferred option for students who want to gain experience in different fields, professionals looking to transition into new industries, and even those who are in their transition into retirement years  but wish to continue working on their own terms.

It is blatantly obvious that many millennials and Gen Z’ers are actively pursuing portfolio careers as it allows them to have a better work-life personal life balance and vast opportunity to explore their different passions and interests. 

On the other hand, older individuals who have a wealth of experience and skills can also thrive in a portfolio career as they can leverage their expertise in multiple areas and offer coaching or mentoring to those new to their field of expertise. Of course, all of this depends upon your definition of career. I have a loose view that pertains to any area of worthwhile contribution to the communities we serve. Tolstoy is my lead on this.

There are a variety of individuals who may not benefit from taking on a career portfolio approach instead of following a traditional more linear career path. If you have limited computer and technological skills, you may struggle with creating and maintaining a digital portfolio - however that can be outsourced!

Also, the career portfolio approach may not suit those who prefer a more structured and linear career progression rather than exploring different opportunities and experiences through a diverse set of skills and accomplishments. others may have financial responsibilities that constrain their ability to ride out the ebbs and flows that will inevitably occur with this career approach. Others may simply utilise paid contribution to fund other activities in their lives which they feel give them more meaning.

Regardless of age or stage in life, it is important for each person to carefully consider their goals and needs before deciding on the best approach to advance their career. However, for those who are open to a more unconventional and personalised career journey, utilising a career portfolio can lead to new opportunities and growth potential. In the end, each person's unique circumstances and preferences should be taken into account when determining whether a career portfolio is the right path for them.


Feel free to share your ideas as we welcome a dialogue with you.

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