Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Portfolio careers...are they worth it?

A lot of people are tossing the title Consultant around these days.  For some, it means that they consult with companies on things that they posess subject matter expertise in.  For others, it means that they do contracting work on a short term basis but prefer the term Consultant versus Contractor.  And for others it means unemployed and consulting the TV guide on back episodes of NCIS.

However, for me, Consulting means that I do a little of this and a little of that.  For those of us in the career planning business, we refer to these as portfolio careers.

A portfolio career is simply a work life that encompasses a couple of different roles/functions often in a non-traditional way.  For some it may mean that they do part time admin work while also doing as needed dog walking.  For others it may mean that they pick up the odd contract here and there doing consulting in the energy industry while also launching their website selling wax figurines of their dog.  And for some still, it may mean that they work to make a living doing a couple of different professional endeavors like job search coaching and recruiting (hello-me!).  Regardless of what is in your portfolio, this is becoming more and more appealing to professionals who are realizing that they no longer have to have one traditional job in order to still maintain a happy and healthy career.

So, sounds awesome-where do I sign up for days in my PJ's at home where opportunities rain down from the sky?  Hmm...I'd like to know that too.  Before embarking on a portfolio career, I recommend asking yourself a couple of things:

1) Am I in a position financially where I can afford to take some risk.  That is-can I afford to be without a paycheck while I launch these endeavors?

2) Speaking of I enjoy uncertainty?  Will I be comfortable with the idea that I have to sing for my supper or do I prefer the stability of what might be a predictable job...with a predictable paycheck/work life?

3) Do I have skills that would be in demand?  Are my skills up to date?  Do employers/consumers need me?  Do my skills fill a place in the market that can't be filled by a machine?  If not, do I know what I want to do to improve my skills?

4) Can I sell myself?  Is my network solid with referrals ready?  Do I have appropriate marketing materials like the right kind of resume, bio, social media presence, etc?  If not, do I know where to go to get these materials?

5) And to me most I have a plan to do address all of this?  What's my goal?  How will I overcome obstacles?  Do I need a backup plan?

I have found that if you can answer these questions first, you are pretty far down the road to creating a portfolio career.  I have been outside of traditional "Corporate America" for several years now and while I'm guessing that I may feel the call to go back someday, I am certainly enjoying where I am now helping companies and individuals make healthy matches.  Until then, happy hunting!


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