When I first started thinking about a change in career path, one of the first books I read was And What Do You Do? 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career. I dutifully worked through all the exercises, examining what skills I had developed, my achievements, my interests, my network… I frantically scribbled all sorts of ideas for jobs that I could do that would bring all these things together. I was so excited, this sounded just the right route for me! Somehow, I forgot all about this in the process of actually quitting my full-time job… but three years later, here I am, and I’m finally on the way to creating that portfolio career.
For me it actually started back at school. I was always quite good at everything, I had no one subject where I excelled more than others; just like I could play several different sports without being a future Olympic star in any one of them. I was also interested in everything, I enjoyed both humanities and science, I liked tennis and netball and hockey and running, I wanted to play clarinet and saxophone and violin and piano…
After my GCSEs (exams you take in the UK aged 15-16), I didn’t want to narrow down my options and take ‘just’ three A-levels; instead I changed to an international school where I could take English Language and Literature, History, and foreign languages, but also Maths and Physics, as part of the International Baccalaureate. I took the same approach at university, choosing to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics not for any deep-rooted passion but simply because it allowed me quite a broad range of subject matter compared with studying a single subject. Even my masters allowed me to take Political Science as a major while still keeping Economics and Law as minors.
My Myers Briggs profile provides some insight here: “ENTPs are versatile and intelligent with a broad array of interests. While capable of excellence in any number of careers or majors, they often find it difficult to zero-in on the right one.” (Source) (I should say that every one of these profiles is written in a very flattering way so that we each feel incredibly proud of identifying with this particular one.) Another site says, that “while it may take time for them to get to a point where they can fully utilize their skillset and qualities, they are likely to find that those qualities translate well into pretty much any career that so much as piques their interest.” (Source) Well, that all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
There is a dark side, however. The nice way of describing someone like me is a Renaissance woman or man. Like Leonardo da Vinci – that’s a pretty flattering comparison! Other terms are generalists, multi-passionates or multi-potentialites… A less flattering way to describe us might be confused, uncommitted or unfocused. We feel like we’re being torn in different directions, always seeing the different options, never wanting to close doors… We’re also likely to suffer from imposter syndrome, since we’re constantly dabbling in different areas and therefore always being confronted with people who are far more specialist than us.
Entering the world of work, marketing was in fact a pretty clever choice of career for me as it turned out. It has allowed me to be both creative and technical, and to wear all sorts of different hats as I’ve managed a diverse range of projects and teams in different contexts. Creating my portfolio career of three businesses is even better, not just for the range of projects and roles I have within the work itself but more broadly in the huge diversity of interactions and even more hats I have to wear as an accountant, a blogger, a copywriter, a publisher, a customer service rep, and so on.
[tweet_box design=”box_07″]If you’re unable to pin down your one big passion, a portfolio career might just be the solution you’re looking for.[/tweet_box]
If you’ve been feeling like you’re stuck and unable to pin down your “one big passion”, a true calling that will make all your dreams come true, then why not consider the possibility of having not one full-time job but several different roles and businesses? A portfolio career might just be the solution you’re looking for.
I strongly recommend the book And What Do You Do? 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career by Barrie Hopson and Katie Ledger. As I said, it takes you through some really concrete exercises that can drive clarity on what you’re good at and what a possible portfolio career might look like for you.
You may also have heard of Emilie Wapnick, whose Tedx talk recently spread across the world as people recognised themselves in her topic: Why some of us don’t have one true calling. She also runs her own multipotentialite site, Puttylike, where you can read lots of helpful blog posts as well as joining a subscription service where you can get even more support and guidance.
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI, consists of 16 different personality types based on our preferences for how we engage with the world, how we look at information and how we make decisions, which in turn drive our interests, needs and motivations. You can try this simple online test to get a good indication of your type, and then search online for information on what this means in terms of where your strengths lie and what careers might be suitable for you.