How to Build a Portfolio Career

Thought Leadership Articles

Published 14 July 2021

What is a portfolio career?

A portfolio career, also known as a board career,  is when an individual pursues more than one source of income source simultaneously.

Usually, the individual applies their various skills to different types of work from consulting to Advisory Board roles, governance board work or projects/part-time work, creating a diverse portfolio of work and income streams.

For many professionals, a portfolio career is an attractive option. It can provide flexibility, variety, autonomy and earning capacity.

The portfolio career market is growing in popularity as the awareness of what a portfolio career is builds and more Executives are considering it as an option. Frameworks now exist to support an organised way of approaching a portfolio career, giving Executives guidance on how best to kick start their portfolio.

There is also more demand from the market, the way that organisations are wanting to engage talent is different and constantly evolving as they seek flexibility, expert skills and knowledge that doesn’t currently sit within their team. As a result, Executives are transitioning to meet this need.

Who is a Portfolio career for?

Portfolio careers can suit a variety of individuals.

It might be Senior Executives who are looking for their next professional opportunity or consultants and interim Executives seeking diversity and sustainability in their portfolio.  Often Professional Service providers, such as accountants, seek to deliver their personal value in new ways and building a portfolio of different work can be the answer.

Expatriates (Expats) also tend to go through a transition period as they look to return home or into a new market and want to change the way they offer their expertise and value that they have accumulated in a different market.

Individuals in professional transition, looking for a career change, those that have been made redundant or re-located. And of course, existing board and advisory professionals who want to make their board roles a full-time profession.

How do I start a portfolio career?

In the current executive job market, there is an oversupply of quality candidates, with businesses taking the opportunity to ‘upgrade’ their talent with more experienced Executives at competitive rates. This leaves Executives looking for alternative ways to share their value and a portfolio career is one of the most attractive options.

But how do you bridge the gap between concept and reality? It can be overwhelming if you are used to the corporate world and have not been exposed to the challenges of starting out on your own, understanding how you can build a practical pathway to have a sustainable portfolio career, where you find opportunity and how to position yourself and the value you offer.

There are a number of steps that Executives can take as they look to transition from a full-time role into part-time employment, board directorships, consulting work, advisory roles or other project-based work.

  • Getting clarity on your motivations for a portfolio career is key. Why are you choosing to follow this route? It requires motivation and dedication, so it is imperative to understand what your drivers are.
  • Defining what your ideal portfolio of work looks like. Do you want to be working with a particular size or type of businesses? Do you want to sit on a mixture of not-for-profit and for-profit boards? Are there international markets that you hold value in and want to have a portfolio that spreads across borders?
  • Develop a clear plan of action for how you will achieve and approach the building of your portfolio.
  • Be clear on your value proposition and invest the time to tailor this to the opportunities you go after.
  • Don’t be afraid to do the work and invest the time. Building a portfolio career takes focus, commitment and consistent activity in the right channels to build something that is sustainable and that suits your individual needs.

How can you start the journey to building your portfolio career?

Try some of the above-mentioned steps and if you would like to develop it further you can go through the Advisory Board Centre’s Portfolio Career program, which has been specifically developed for individuals looking to discover their own path to a portfolio career and uncover their ‘what’s next?’.

Resources to Support Your Transition to a Portfolio Career

Louise Broekman, Advisory Board Centre Founder and CEO, sat down with deeply experienced Executive Recruiters and Certified Chairs Michele Walls & Peter Murphy, to discuss how to build a Portfolio Career.

The full recording is available below:

If you are looking to transition to a portfolio career and don’t know where to start, enrol in our online Porfolio Careers Program to discover your professional pathway.