The Power of a Portfolio Career

Kristin Luck


Power of the Portfolio Life

The traditional notion of a linear career path seems increasingly outdated at a time when employers are increasingly fickle and employees have learned that, often, the fastest path to a promotion or salary increase is to jump ship for a competitor. As such, the concept of a "portfolio career" has been gaining traction, offering a refreshing alternative to the conventional notion of picking an industry or sector and then working over many years to perfect a narrow skill set (like accounting or plumbing) over your career. But what, exactly, is a portfolio career, and why is it gaining popularity? In this post, we'll explore the essence of the portfolio career, drawing insights from a thought-provoking episode from the "10% Happier" podcast featuring Christina Wallace, an advocate for the "anti-hustle, pro-rest" approach to work and author of the book The Portfolio Life.

First, let's define what a portfolio career entails. At its core, a portfolio career involves pursuing multiple interests or professional endeavors simultaneously, rather than relying on a single path or, in some cases, a single source of income. This portfolio career approach allows individuals to diversify their skills, interests, and sources of revenue, fostering resilience in an ever-changing job market. As Christina Wallace aptly puts it in her podcast interview, a portfolio career is about creating your own “human Venn diagram” or what many may think of as "putting your eggs in multiple baskets." In the podcast, Wallace shared four key pillars to creating a portfolio life.


4 Pillars to Creating a Portfolio Life


Many of us (particularly in the U.S.) identify as our jobs. The challenge with that is that, over time, you start to put yourself in a box. You start thinking that your job is all that you are. You may have forgotten other skills or interests that used to be a bigger part of you because you set them aside to focus on one key skill or interest. Identity is important because a big part of creating your personal Venn diagram is understanding that we are all multi-dimensional and multi-talented.



Once you recognize that you are more than one thing it becomes logical to imagine you can do more than one thing. When we are young, we imagine we can be or do anything. But as we age, we start making choices, and doors close; and we think the straightforward line is the only line forward. Understanding that the line you see can actually go a LOT of different directions is key to creating a portfolio career.


a portfolio career encourages continuous learning and personal growth. Rather than stagnating in a single role or industry, individuals can explore new opportunities, acquire diverse skills, and expand their professional horizons.

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Diversification allows us to future-proof against a world that is, in many ways, unknown and unknowable. As we've learned in recent years, thanks to the COVID pandemic, moments of disruption (whether geopolitical, technological, biological, or something else altogether), are coming faster than ever. The only way to prepare for these moments is through diversification. Think of your portfolio career as a financial portfolio. You wouldn’t put all your money in cash under your mattress. Rather you would ensure your finances were diversified (stocks, retirement savings, real estate, etc.) to guarantee greater protection during times of volatility. The same goes for your career.



One of the key advantages of a portfolio career is its inherent flexibility. Unlike the “golden age” of capitalism, job security today is no longer guaranteed, and industries are constantly evolving. By cultivating a diverse portfolio of skills and projects, individuals can adapt more readily to shifting market demands and economic conditions. Moreover, the flexibility of a portfolio career enables individuals to pursue their passions and interests in a way that aligns with their values and lifestyle preferences.

Think of people you know who may be defined as "multi-hyphenates", someone who is, for example, an actor/producer/director. Wallace shares an example of a friend who is a playwright, computer developer, AND programmer. She writes code and writes plays (they have nothing to do with each other, but she does both) and they are equally important to her. She is visible in both worlds simultaneously.  Multi-hyphenates are often at the vanguard of the future. They're the ones who spot opportunities for innovation because they live in multiple worlds that don't look like they're connected, but that often do overlap.


The Benefits of a Portfolio Career

Another compelling aspect of a portfolio career is its potential for creativity and innovation. By engaging in a variety of projects and pursuits, individuals can leverage their unique talents and perspectives to generate novel ideas and solutions. This interdisciplinary approach fosters creativity at the intersection of different fields, sparking innovation and driving progress in diverse industries.

Furthermore, a portfolio career encourages continuous learning and personal growth. Rather than stagnating in a single role or industry, individuals can explore new opportunities, acquire diverse skills, and expand their professional horizons. This ongoing process of skill development not only enhances employability but also enriches one's sense of fulfillment and purpose.

In addition to its professional benefits, a portfolio career can provide financial stability and security. By diversifying income streams and sources of revenue, individuals can mitigate the risks associated with relying solely on a single job or paycheck. This resilience becomes especially valuable during economic uncertainty or unexpected life events, providing a safety net and peace of mind.


How to Cultivate a Portfolio Career

Embarking on a portfolio career requires careful planning, self-discipline, and resourcefulness. It involves juggling multiple responsibilities, managing time effectively, and building a network of contacts and collaborators. Success in a portfolio career often hinges on a combination of creativity, adaptability, and perseverance.

It should be noted that Wallace emphasizes the importance of embracing rest and leisure as integral components of a fulfilling career. In a culture that glorifies hustle and burnout, she advocates for a more sustainable approach to work that prioritizes well-being and self-care. A portfolio career can afford individuals greater freedom to design their schedules and allocate time for restorative activities, thereby promoting greater work-life balance and overall satisfaction.

Ultimately, the rise of the portfolio career reflects a broader shift in attitudes towards work and success. In our increasingly interconnected and dynamic world, traditional notions of career progression and stability are being challenged. Individuals are embracing a more holistic approach to work and life, one that values flexibility, creativity, and well-being.

By adopting a diverse array of projects and pursuits, individuals can cultivate resilience, creativity, and purpose in their professional endeavors. Remember, a portfolio approach isn’t about spreading yourself thin; instead, it’s about weaving a rich tapestry of experiences. So why not embrace the portfolio career and design a life and career that truly reflects your passions and aspirations?

If you'd like to learn even more about creating a portfolio career, check out Svetlana Dimovski's article, How to Leverage Your Portfolio Career for Success.