5/9/2016 0 Comments
Guest blog by Dr. Chris Dalton
Look closely at the sequential portfolio of things you have done throughout your life and you may see a common thread linking what otherwise may be unconnected jobs.
I’d like to thank Portfolio People for asking me to write a guest blog entry. When they did, I felt sure I could write from an interesting angle, just as soon as I had the chance to look up exactly what ‘portfolio’ actually meant! After all, I did not consider myself to be any kind of expert in its theory, nor a great role model in its practice. I work in a business school and have more or less one function and professional identity, most of which is realised within one context and institution. In what way do I fit the bill of a portfolio person?
It turns out that the word portfolio comes from Italian rooted in Latin (portare, to carry) and Greek (φύλλον - fyllon, or leaf). It’s not difficult to see how the word for a container used to carry in one place what would otherwise be detached sheets fits well as a metaphor. I can see sense in simultaneously carrying various work identities in a career, even when these roles may be very loosely overlapped in terms of knowledge, skill sets or experience. In other words, a portfolio career is a series of concurrent part-time jobs and it is a personal brand.
But that’s not me, I thought. And nor do I really want to seek that identity out. After all, surely such people end up with too much on their plates, and too much in their minds, to feel a sense of cohesion that a single job gives you. I guess much of the argument in favour of portfolio careers has been that the context of work is constantly changing. For example it has become far more common to work part time. People often do two jobs at once and sometimes refer to themselves as having a "slash" career. Again, I thought, that’s not what appeals to me.
But then I thought again. Maybe there’s another way of looking at this. Rather than defining a portfolio doing lots of different things at once, why not see it as pursuing one thing in lots of different ways?
In other words, when you know what your passion is, and find something that engages your intellectual curiosity, why not see it achieved in many different places and over a whole lifetime of contexts? People ought not worry about making their new job logically follow on from their last (or their next slavishly in tune with their present role) if they have seen an underlying quest. The more avenues you pursue, the better. My chronological portfolio of jobs, which started at 17 when I volunteered to edit a magazine, has just such a pattern. I am always singly employed, yet all the jobs I have done form a portfolio with one collective unifier – the expression of ideas through words.
Many thanks to our guest blogger Dr. Chris Dalton - Associate Professor of Management Learning at Henley Business School and Author of 'The Every Day MBA,' 'Brilliant Strategy for Business' and 'MBA Day by Day'