Portfolio careers – the answer to advancement in Covid 19

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Are Portfolio careers the answer to career advancement in Covid 19?

Has your career stalled due to Covid 19? Has the period of reflection during lockdown caused you to re-consider your career and wider life choices? You’re certainly not alone. In my coaching practice, I’ve seen a significant increase in the number of clients coming to me for advice on how to progress and often pivot their careers.

The pandemic has accelerated many of the labour market trends that were developing over the past few years. Perhaps the most relevant trend in relation to career progression is that the time of the one-dimensional, upward career path is over.
The idea of a career ladder, which we simply had to hold on to, has been severely rocked. Racking up years of service no longer automatically translates to moving to the next level. Career ownership and direction now lies firmly with the individual. You are the owner of your career…

Certainly the Covid 19 career shock can feel hugely negative in the short-term but it may actually have unexpected positive effects in the long-term.
The ‘great pause’ during the first lockdown in Spring was an important time of reflection for many of us. The opportunity to jump off the treadmill of life and think about what we actually want was eye-opening for lots of people.
A fulfilling and rewarding career is not about following a blue-print that has been designed by others, it’s about discovering in a much more personalised way, what motivates and drives you. Taking into account your purpose and your mission and what legacy you want to look back on.

When clients come to me with concerns around career progression, the first thing I ask them to do is engage in a “Discovery Phase” which includes a career audit. This process of analysing what a person really wants from their professional career and how that fits with their overall life picture, can be hugely revealing. This a key step before moving to the “Vision” phase and lastly the “Action” phase. Many people jump straight into action and it’s like a house, if you done have the proper foundations, the roof will come crashing in.

For many clients, the extra time and headspace resulting from Covid, coupled with the career audit process has led them to develop ‘Portfolio Careers’, that is engaging in diverse roles delivering multiple streams of income and/or reward.

There are numerous motivating factors which lead individuals to pursue portfolio-careers; at a senior level it may often be a desire to give something back or pass on knowledge, for example a client who is a Director in a multinational now also lecturing at 3rd level and sitting on the board of a charity or establishing a mentor programme for young adults.

Financial concerns, which have unfortunately been the harsh reality for many during Covid, are often a key motivator. A Project Manager client who saw an immediate decrease in contracts in the last few months has established a thriving voice over business after discovering a passion for technology, audio and pivoted a hobby to section of his new portfolio career.

For many others, who find themselves between the triggers of either generosity or necessity, the development of a portfolio career is a more holistic decision. Frequently it is having the belief and ambition to turn a hobby or a passion into a viable revenue stream.

Portfolio careers can be hugely rewarding, getting paid to pursue a passion is a dream for most. Some clients also feel that their best defence during these uncertain times is to diversify and ensure they haven’t put all their eggs in one basket.

However, if you are considering branching out to develop a portfolio career, it is important to realise that there can be pitfalls.

Over-working is an obvious potential side-effect. Committing to too many projects and deadlines can lead to burn out. It is essential to have good time management skills and to develop clear time: return ratios.

Those pursuing portfolio careers can also report feeling a loss of identity. Research shows that we link a lot of our sense of identity to what we do for a living and portfolio careers can muddy the waters. There’s also a traditional sense of safety with a ‘steady job’ and people, particularly bank managers, can feel uneasy with portfolio careers.

However, I’m happy to see that these traditional stigmas are being eroded and once again Covid 19 has accelerated this trend.

If you feel that a portfolio career and the variety it provides, could work for you, the first place to start is a thorough self-analysis. What skills do I have? What interests and hobbies really motivate me? What legacy do I want to leave behind? What makes me feel proud?

On a practical level the question is – what are the skills required, what skills do I have now and how do I close the gap? It is hugely advisable, on the practical side, to also seek out good accountancy advice. As rewarding as portfolio careers can be, it is also essential to ensure that it is financially viable.
Portfolio careers are not new, however the current economic situation coupled with the stripping away of traditional stigmas, means that a multi-pronged career is a desirable and viable option for many more people.

Sinead Kieran is a career strategist and development coach, visit www.coachingbysmk.com for further information

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