In a recent article on the BBC Capital website, Alina Dizik highlights the growing popularity of encouraging high school students to consider portfolio careers, as opposed to promoting more traditional career paths.
This is being done to prepare the future workforce for well-paid micro-jobs, done for various employers. It is a growing trend that experts believe will become more prevalent in the next decade or so.
Futurists predict that this will fundamentally change the way that we pursue our careers. If this is the future of work, is it for you?
What is a portfolio career?
A portfolio career incorporates a varied skillset to pursue more than one source of income. It’s like freelancing, but different in the sense that the focus is not on a specific skill. Rather, a person will use various skills to make ends meet.
This leads to a career made up of various long-term “projects” at the same time, and of constantly updating and expanding your skillset to make yourself more employable.
People that have portfolio careers are often called “slashers” because they’re the type who’ll answer that they’re a “lecturer/consultant/photographer” when you ask them what they do for a living.
To explain it in social media terms: take a look at any given bio on any of the social media platforms. These short descriptions often include the skills and abilities of a person. Someone’s Twitter bio, for example, might read something like this: Travel buff. Freelance music scholar. Zombie expert.
If this person was pursuing a portfolio career, we could assume that they make money from writing travel articles for an online travel magazine and playing in a band at the local pub once every often, and that they’re definitely the person you’ll want on your side once the zombie apocalypse begins – at a price, of course.
Slashers don’t just do one job, which makes for a rather complicated answer to an enquiry about their job title. But would a portfolio career work for you?
The pros of a portfolio career
• It is a dynamic, ever-changing career path. As many jobs might only be part-time endeavours, getting bored or feeling like you’re stuck in a rut probably won’t be problems for you.
• If you lose a job, there are other options that will cover the loss.
• You have more freedom because you can decide what jobs you’d like to take on, and because you decide how these are to be done.
• You have greater control of your schedule.
• It highlights all your skills, not just one or some of them.
• You need to constantly expand your field of expertise, which ultimately makes for an impressive set of abilities and extensive knowledge about many things.
The cons of a portfolio career
• There is a lack of a set routine.
• Time management is of the essence, as you’ll have many demands that need to be met.
• You lose the benefits that many traditional careers offer, like a pension fund or medical aid.
• You are responsible for finding sources of income, which means that you have to make networking a priority, always.
• There are high levels of uncertainty in terms of income, and cheques don’t necessarily come at regular intervals.
It goes without saying that portfolio careers are not for everyone – it is a very specific type of person who has the ability to be a Jack-of-all-trades, and to be equally committed to each trade all at once.
However, if you’re just setting out on your chosen career path, it may be worth noting that the road ahead might require you to also utilise the other skills you possess. Identify your strengths, and it can’t hurt to keep on learning.