First they came for the baby-boomers, and I said nothing. Then they came for Generation X, and I said nothing again. Then they mentioned “portfolio careers,” and I felt a twinge of recognition.
I have just taken a call from my mother, bless her heart, which included the phrase “Yes, but what exactly do you do for a living?” And I could not answer her, because I do not have a profession as such, more a series of varied jobs, none of which I would class my specialism.
A portfolio career is one where you do not focus on a specific field: instead you move from one area to another and possibly combine those with your own personal interests. For instance, I would never class myself as a tech-girl; however, I have consulted on a number of projects as an IT advisor. I would never describe myself as a financial wizard; but if you want to minimise your tax bill (legally), I can probably do that too.
It does seem – if demands for a flexible workforce are to be believed – that a portfolio career might be the way to go for gypsies such as myself, who have no allegiance to a particular discipline. However, for those who have qualified as accountants, lawyers or engineers, the path is more uncertain. In addition, it’s understandable that employers might look askance at a portfolio CV, particularly if the cadidate has been bouncing from sector to sector without settling down for any period of time.
At present, employers continue asking for specialists. Wouldn’t it be better for all concerned, however, if they began requesting all-rounders who could make their mark on every part of a business, rather than a narrow job description? Not only would it allow for more internal promotion within a company, but it would also lead back to a time when it really was possible to work your way up from the bottom of a company, learning your trade as you progressed. Instead, what we see today are job adverts asking for qualifications and experience that would generally take until middle age to acquire.
We can’t all be in our mid-40s. And we can’t all focus on the particular niche a company might require. Portfolio candidates are not necessarily flaky; they simply need to be stimulated. And paid! With the economic climate as it is, it would be churlish to deny people the opportunity to take any job that they are qualified for. Let’s hope that in the future, businesses look more kindly on those of us with a portfolio instead of a trajectory.
[Image by Single Frame]