Portfolio working or How to have your cake and eat it
This weekend I delivered a workshop at the conference for students at UEA entitled 'The career you never thought of' intended to expand the horizons of students' options.
The breakout session workshop was called 'How to have your cake and eat it' and you can see the presentation notes to the right.
We had a good discussion about what you need to think about if you like the idea of a portfolio career, and perhaps the most important thing is that it is not a style of working that suits everyone, but for some people it might be the answer to the feeling that they don't quite fit anywhere, or that they want to pursue a career area whilst keep their options open.
This seemed to apply to the students who choose this as a breakout session, and a common trait was that they wanted to try different things but ended up feeling a bit guilty that they weren't sticking to one set of goals.
We tend to go through school being told that we need to focus, have goals, work out what we want to do and go all out for it, follow our passion. But this doesn't work for everyone. Some people don't settle and bring everything together until they have gathered some experience and
In this workshop we talked about how you can spend the early part of your career gathering tools and resources by doing a number of jobs and other diversions, some of which may not seem relevant to a career, which all add up to make a box of tools that you can put to work in a more focussed way later.
For example, in my late teens and early twenties I worked in a shop in London, had admin jobs, had two children, looked after my mother who died when I was 24 (very character forming) , trained to be an NCT teacher, opened and ran a wholefood shop, helped a friend at trade fair exhibitions, made and sold jumpers, did A levels and trained to be a further ed teacher before going to art school at 28 to do a degree in art and design. I didn't really know where I was heading till then but in retrospect, I gathered lots of resources. I didn't earn a proper full-time salary till I was 32 and identified myself as a graphic designer -a bit of a relief to have a label!
But as I progressed through my working life, I have still added to what I do so that now I am still using my design skills but have added lots of others and consequently now have a portfolio career which uses all of my skills in one way or another at different times and usually in combination. I use my design and problem skills (core skills) daily to work out what to do eg to plan an event or project as well as put together a programme or design a poster.
So we decided that, if you want to 'have your cake and eat it', it is important to consciously gather together these skills and think laterally about how you can use them, and to be hard-headed about your work style and not try and force yourself into someone else's mould. Understand how and when you work best, and realise that it takes time and building up to reach a point where you are ready to use them all, maybe in your late twenties or thirties even.
Then we did the Belbin test - a quiz which is intended to see how you might work within a team, but is a great aide to help you understand how you function as one of 8 types (I believe they have now added a ninth, ie specialist) - you can try it yourself by downloading the files on the right.
Overall, I think that the students to be be somewhat relieved to be given 'permission' to do things their own way and to take their time to 'discover' or 'uncover' the right place for them to find work that satisfies their wide range of interests.
Oh and we did eat lots of cake, in fact they polished off quite a lot. I made blueberry and orange and chocolate whilst I was preparing the presentation - multi-tasking as usual!
Here's a link to a Forbes article of hints about running a Portfolio career. Let's see how close we were! Click here to read the article