So, You’re a Portfolioist Eh?

Recently someone asked me what I did for a living – a typical question that comes up in many situations – but for some reason the question really got to me that day. The truthful answer would be, “depending on the day, I teach, facilitate, organize, speak, write or coordinate, sometimes all of them simultaneously!” Not quite the answer people want to hear.

Feeling pressured to come up with something “acceptable”, I responded that I was “an educator” which is true some of the time, but surely not all of the time! Yes, I could be an educator on Monday, but Tuesday through Sunday, well, that’s a different story.

Upon further reflection, I realized that there is no simple answer to the what do you do question, no “Oh, I am an X and do Y.” Rather, my big a-ha moment was the notion that I am, and have always been, a portfolioist. It is who I am, and it’s time to accept it, name it, and celebrate that fact that portfolio careers are valid, appealing and impactful choices when it comes to how we work.

So what’s a portfolioist? There are probably as many definitions as the types of jobs people undertake, so for me, it means someone who draws from their diverse skill set to combine multiple jobs at various levels of intensity to form a career. It’s about seeking being purposeful in seeking out opportunities and working on what is needed, when it’s needed.

In my world, that could mean de-cluttering a home office followed by marking college research papers, or facilitating a creativity retreat and then speaking to students about building confidence and resilience, or writing a blog post and then coaching clients on minimalism. They are all my “jobs” and I gain great satisfaction from all of them.

So, what is a portfolioist’s superpower? I believe it is the ability to adapt, respond and problem-solve instinctively and creatively in diverse settings. However, this superpower, can also be perceived as unfocused, too general, and “all over the place,” So, which is it?

Twenty-five years in, (I had no idea I was choosing a portfolio career when I started!), I can attest to the many joys and challenges that come with choosing a portfolio career. The freedom to decide when, with whom, and how you want to work, along with the variation of work, are the biggest benefits, while the need to constantly manage prospects, work space, time, and networking, while simultaneously generating revenue, is a constant challenge.

When I thought more about my portfolio career and actually took the time to make a list of my jobs (which I defined as any roles undertaken to move a project/initiative/client/group forward that includes payment of some kind), I couldn’t believe how long my list was! Here they are, up to this point anyway…

Educator, Teacher, Facilitator, Research Coordinator, Educational Consultant, Tutor, Workshop Developer, Sports Coach, Life Coach, Author, Blogger, Professional Organizer, Olympian Ambassador, Administrator, Motivational Speaker, Event Planner, Board Member, Public Art Coordinator, BIA Manager, Arts Festival coordinator, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Study Abroad Director, Resident Director, Community Services Coordinator, Recreation Manager, Dancer, Choreographer, Visual Artist, Art Instructor, Publicist, Camp Counselor, Trip leader, Life Coach, Recruitment Officer Admissions Counsellor, Curriculum Developer, Driver, Security Guard, Tour Guide, Web Content Coordinator, Plasma Donor, Telemarketer, Tourism Ambassador, VIP Chaperone, Usher, Designer, Housekeeper, and Club Med G.O.

Being a portfolioist means being multi-passionate (thanks Kate Hanley!) and responsive to the challenges and opportunities of 21st century living and I am learning to step into this role with more confidence and clarity, while helping others do the same. The next time someone asks me what I do, I’ll tell them I’m a portfolioist and see what happens!

I’d love to hear how you navigate multiple jobs as a portfolioist. Leave your comments, feedback or suggestions below or email me to learn more.