MANAGEMENT UPDATE Checkmate

Why pick up only one job when you could have two or three? Claire Adler on the rise of portfolio careers

More than 20 years ago, management guru Charles Handy predicted that in the 21st century, over 50 per cent of jobs would be something other than full-time. He envisaged a burgeoning number of part-time, flexitime, temporary and self-employment options. And, according to John Lees, author of How to Get a Job You’ll Love, just out in its seventh edition, Handy was not far wrong.

Lees, himself a career coach, management trainer and Anglican priest all rolled into one, maintains he has noticed a change in the past three years. “A lot of people want to talk about and explore portfolio working. Even though they may not take it up immediately, they are marking it as a possibility for the future,” he says.

Lees considers openness towards pursuing simultaneous careers as one of the strongest ways of flexing in response to the fast-changing world of work. Well-funded company pension schemes, which once encouraged long service and early retirement, are largely in decline. “If it seems likely we will have to work longer into retirement, then we may want to prepare for the journey ahead by think ing about the kind of skills we would like to use,” he advises.

Peter Bates decided that 20 years as an investment banker was enough for one lifetime. Today, he lives in Devon and is a cabinet-maker, a rare-breed pig-farmer and a business adviser. “None of the jobs I do relate to each other. I have no background in farming,” says Bates. “It would be difficult to find another person with such an odd range of jobs. But I am more satisfied in my career than ever. I enjoy greater security since I have not placed all my eggs in the proverbial basket.” Whether it is sending large amounts of information, promoting his ventures or researching the competition, Bates recognises that the Internet has been instrumental in enabling him to set up multiple businesses in a relatively short time.

But it is not just older workers who are tapping into the potential of leading multiple working lives. The Electronic Recruiting Exchange, an American online source of news and analysis in the recruiting world, reports that a third of new workers are looking for alternatives to full-time employment.

The arguments for pursuing a portfolio career at the beginning of one’s adult life are clear. Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, author of bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, believes that the best way to figure out what will make you happy is to try it. A portfolio career gives you the opportunity to try three or four types of work at the same time and to keep switching choices until you come up with a portfolio you like.

“For people in their 20s and 30s, a portfolio career is a means of selfdiscovery, hedging one’s bets and protecting their quality of life,” says Penelope Trunk, the career specialist also known as her blogging alter ego Brazen Careerist. “A portfolio career is not the same thing as holding down three bad jobs and wishing you could figure out what to do with yourself. Rather, it is a scheme you pursue purposefully and positively, as a way to achieve financial or personal goals or a mixture of both.” Certain fields, such as the arts or academia, lend themselves freely to portfolio careers. A judge for this year’s Turner Prize, Dr. Andrew Renton, Director of curating at Goldsmiths College, University of London, is the author of various books on contemporary art and has curated dozens of art exhibitions throughout the world. He has been multitasking throughout his career, but he hardly planned it that way.

“I began publishing while finishing a Ph.D. and my career developed in a rather ad hoc way,” says Renton. “I didn’t know what to say when someone asked me what I did, and felt embarrassed that it took so long to explain. Most people could say it in one word — doctor, accountant, fireman — But sometimes you do more than one thing to make a living.” The trick in all career decisions is to know the intersection of your skills and your passions, says Trunk. “This is an ongoing process, not a final destination. So, a portfolio of part-time careers is more conducive to this path of discovery than a single, eight-hours-every-day career.”

Yet, a portfolio career comes with its challenges. You are not locked into one employer so you are at lower risk of your career crashing through redundancy, says Lees. But it still takes “a leap of faith and sometimes imagination to say goodbye to conventional work” and ensure you are not “under- or over-employed”.

“There is huge financial and emo tional insecurity to having so many strands to my work,” admits Renton. “Time management is a huge issue and it is very hard to ever walk away from work.”

So, can pursuing several careers simultaneously help you find your dream job quicker?

Civil servant, History Ph.D. student and lecturer Ben Elton believes that it can. After studying History at Queens’ College, Cambridge, Elton worked as a parliamentary assistant in Westminster while studying for a doctorate at Birkbeck College. Working at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, he is also writing up his 1,00,000-word thesis on the impact of England’s chief rabbis on the development of Anglo-Jewry. He also routinely squeezes in lectures at History societies, synagogues and the London School of Jewish Studies, a community education college.

“I would not rule out full-time academia at some point,” says Elton, “but doing things simultaneously has to help you find your ideal job situation faster.”

For Mitch Greenblatt, the freedom of a freelance lifestyle, moving between jobs as an illustrator for clients, special effects make-up artist, sculptor, photographer and graphic designer, allowed him to recognise chances worth taking when he encountered them.

The gift of a vintage watch in 1998 got Greenblatt hooked on watches. Today, Greenblatt is the custodian of what is probably the world’s biggest collection of vintage watches from the 1960s and 1970s. He now works exclusively on his retail website, watchismo.com, and is developing his first watch designs.

“Not following a planned career trajectory, I realised any hobby or passing fancy can be a career,” says Greenblatt. “Anything was and still is ¦ possible.” Source: The Guardian

More than 20 years ago, manage- ment guru Charles Handy predicted that in the 21st century, over 50 per cent of jobs would be something oth- er than full-time. He envisaged a bur- geoning number of part-time, flex- itime, temporary and self-employ- ment options. And, according to John Lees, author of How to Get a Job You’ll Love, just out in its seventh edi- tion, Handy was not far wrong. Lees, himself a career coach, management trainer and Anglican priest all rolled into one, maintains he has noticed a change in the past three years. “A lot of people want to talk about and explore portfolio working. Even though they may not take it up immediately, they are marking it as a possibility for the future,” he says. Lees considers openness towards pursuing simultaneous careers as one of the strongest ways of flexing in re- sponse to the fast-changing world of work. Well-funded company pension schemes, which once encouraged long service and early retirement, are largely in decline. “If it seems likely we will have to work longer into re- tirement, then we may want to pre- pare for the journey ahead by think- ing about the kind of skills we would like to use,” he advises. Peter Bates decided that 20 years as an investment banker was enough for one lifetime. Today, he lives in Devon and is a cabinet-mak- er, a rare-breed pig-farmer and a business adviser. “None of the jobs I do relate to each other. I have no background in farming,” says Bates. “It would be difficult to find another person with such an odd range of jobs. But I am more satisfied in my career than ever. I enjoy greater se- curity since I have not placed all my eggs in the proverbial basket.” Whether it is sending large amounts of information, promoting his ven- tures or researching the competi- tion, Bates recognises that the Inter- net has been instrumental in en- abling him to set up multiple busi- nesses in a relatively short time. But it is not just older workers who are tapping into the potential of leading multiple working lives. The Electronic Recruiting Exchange, an American online source of news and analysis in the recruiting world, reports that a third of new workers are looking for alternatives to full-time employment. The arguments for pursuing a portfolio career at the beginning of one’s adult life are clear. Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, author of bestseller Stum- bling on Happiness, believes that the best way to figure out what will make you happy is to try it. A port- folio career gives you the opportuni- ty to try three or four types of work at the same time and to keep switch- ing choices until you come up with a portfolio you like. “For people in their 20s and 30s, a portfolio career is a means of self- discovery, hedging one’s bets and protecting their quality of life,” says Penelope Trunk, the career special- ist also known as her blogging alter ego Brazen Careerist. “A portfolio career is not the same thing as hold- ing down three bad jobs and wishing you could figure out what to do with yourself. Rather, it is a scheme you pursue purposefully and positively, as a way to achieve financial or per- sonal goals or a mixture of both.” Certain fields, such as the arts or academia, lend themselves freely to portfolio careers. A judge for this year’s Turner Prize, Dr. Andrew Ren- ton, Director of curating at Gold- smiths College, University of Lon- don, is the author of various books on contemporary art and has curat- ed dozens of art exhibitions through- out the world. He has been multi- tasking throughout his career, but he hardly planned it that way. “I began publishing while finish- ing a Ph.D. and my career developed in a rather ad hoc way,” says Renton. “I didn’t know what to say when someone asked me what I did, and felt embarrassed that it took so long to explain. Most people could say it in one word — doctor, accountant, fireman — But sometimes you do more than one thing to make a liv- ing.” The trick in all career decisions is to know the intersection of your skills and your passions, says Trunk. “This is an ongoing process, not a fi- nal destination. So, a portfolio of part-time careers is more conducive to this path of discovery than a sin- gle, eight-hours-every-day career.” Yet, a portfolio career comes with its challenges. You are not locked into one employer so you are at low- er risk of your career crashing through redundancy, says Lees. But it still takes “a leap of faith and some- times imagination to say goodbye to conventional work” and ensure you are not “under- or over-employed”. “There is huge financial and emo- tional insecurity to having so many strands to my work,” admits Renton. “Time management is a huge issue and it is very hard to ever walk away from work.” So, can pursuing several careers simultaneously help you find your dream job quicker? Civil servant, History Ph.D. stu- dent and lecturer Ben Elton believes that it can. After studying History at Queens’ College, Cambridge, Elton worked as a parliamentary assistant in Westminster while studying for a doctorate at Birkbeck College. Working at the Department for Con- stitutional Affairs, he is also writing up his 1,00,000-word thesis on the impact of England’s chief rabbis on the development of Anglo-Jewry. He also routinely squeezes in lectures at History societies, synagogues and the London School of Jewish Stud- ies, a community education college. “I would not rule out full-time ac- ademia at some point,” says Elton, “but doing things simultaneously has to help you find your ideal job situation faster.” For Mitch Greenblatt, the free- dom of a freelance lifestyle, moving between jobs as an illustrator for clients, special effects make-up artist, sculptor, photographer and graphic designer, allowed him to recognise chances worth taking when he encountered them. The gift of a vintage watch in 1998 got Greenblatt hooked on watches. Today, Greenblatt is the custodian of what is probably the world’s biggest collection of vintage watches from the 1960s and 1970s. He now works exclusively on his retail website, watchismo.com, and is developing his first watch designs. “Not following a planned career trajectory, I re- alised any hobby or pass- ing fancy can be a career,” says Greenblatt. “Anything was and still is ¦ possible.