Juggling A Portfolio Career

May 16, 2017

The world of work is changing. Many of us now choose to juggle a wide range of positions, part-time roles, consultancies, appointments and partnerships over the traditional 9-5pm job. Phrases like “gig economy” and “portfolio careers” arguably describe the way women have been working for a long time, as we strive to balance our careers and personal lives.

Here are some tips to make sure that your professional portfolio is working for you.

1. Identify your basic income needs

We all need to pay the bills. Do the maths first, and work out how much time you need to reserve for paid work which covers your costs. This might be a decent client retainer, or a part-time job. This might sound obvious, but the temptation to pick attractive opportunities should not prevail over the time you need to spend ensuring basic financial security. I often meet women who feel they should be considering senior Board or pro bono positions – the reality is investing time in a pro bono role, means losing time for paid work.

2. Identify a focus

You and your clients, should be able to visualise a consistent and underlying picture or driver which underpins all your activities. My consistent theme is that I always seek professional opportunities that have a positive impact on women and children. Without a clear narrative, you are at risk of presenting as a mishmash of different offerings and objectives and confusing your customer. Developing a professional vision will help you to attract and create opportunities which are congruent, which make sense together and which align. This is good for your sanity and income and great for your brand.

3. Identify your gaps and goals

If you juggle many professional roles, it is worth stepping back now and then and looking at how you spend your time. I found last year, that I had over-committed to speaking engagements and this was draining time from identifying and developing new client relationships. Being able to constantly weight up and measure your gaps, will help you to pick the right goals and keep your portfolio balanced. Have a think about your portfolio – is there anything which sticks out as not quite the right fit or where you might feel exposed?

4. Keep agile

A portfolio career is always changing and evolving. This is one of the biggest attractions and drawbacks of working in this way. You have to be comfortable with analysing and evaluating yourself and being agile enough to respond to change and opportunity. Being able to mix and match your professional opportunities and to retain control over how you spend your professional time is a great privilege – use it wisely!

Balveen Ajimal
Balveen is the Founder of Grace Street Consulting – advising on strategy, management, stakeholder engagement, legal, governance and strategic projects in the not-for- profit sector with a focus on advocacy for women.

She is on the Board of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation, a member of the Queensland Government Strategic Group: Towards Gender Parity, Women on Boards, a Mentor on SME innovation with Mentor Walks and is Queensland Ambassador for Endometriosis Australia.

Balveen’s new course “Ready to Board” helps women to achieve Board positions.