Redefining Success – The Power of Choice in your Portfolio of Work

Thought Leadership Articles

Published 08 September 2020

What does professional success look like?  The answer is highly personalised and, for many, difficult to articulate.

You may start by describing the outcomes of success – money, recognition, knowledge, influence, currency, variety and time.

Consider this – professional success is having the power of CHOICE.

The ability to choose the work that you do, who you do it with and when you do it.

Money, recognition, knowledge, influence, currency, variety and time (amongst others) are both enablers and by products of the power of choice.

If you find yourself increasingly thinking about wanting to work with different people in different ways to add value and impact – it may be time to consider diversifying your portfolio or work.

The Rise of the Portfolio Career

The rise of the “gig economy” is not new.  Often the gig economy gets rolled into the term “portfolio career”.  In the Executive and Board level space building a sustainable, enjoyable and impactful portfolio of work is not a “side-hustle” or a “gig”.

Building an Executive portfolio career is a conscious decision to actively deliver your value in a new way.

One of my colleagues describes it as “Brain-as-a-Service”.

Until recently, the gig economy has not been readily accessible to “white collar”/professional workers beyond consulting where their skills and experience don’t fit into a task or project specific offering. High quality professionals that are purpose driven aren’t interested in transactional engagements. While they may want to commercialise their time, they aren’t motivated by becoming a “commodity”.

There is a significant, growing shift in the professional market to wanting to use your skills, experience and knowledge to help others beyond just your “day” job.

What Does a Portfolio Career Look Like?

Each portfolio of work will be as unique as the individual professional.

Executives who are still enjoying full time work may look to utilise 10-20% of their professional time in other areas such as Advisory Boards, Governance Boards or pro bono support.  They may do this for a number of years as a transition pathway to a more diverse portfolio.

Professional Service providers may look to transition the type of work they do with their current clients and open pathways to engage with new connections.  This may be exchanging some of their current consulting/project based work for strategic advisory or board engagements.  This is often highlighted as a desire to have a different style of conversation or impact through their work.

Professionals with a current portfolio of work may want to adjust the “portfolio mix”, maintain their professional currency or connect in with new networks to broaden their horizons.

Within the Advisory Board sector, Advisory Board Centre research has shown that within the Advisor community the portfolios are as diverse as the members themselves.

What Skills and Experience do you need to build a Portfolio of Work?

A successful and sustainable portfolio requires:

  • Understanding of your current skills and relevant experience
  • Clarity on how you want to deliver your value to the market
  • How effectively you create and connect to opportunity
  • The quality of service you provide to your portfolio and wider networks

In the Formalised Advisory Boards – Advisor Engagement Market Pulse report, the Advisory Board Centre explored how companies are engaging Advisors as they build their Advisory Board structures. The data sample is based on 258 roles within firms in the Asia Pacific region ranging from pre-revenue start-ups to organisations with annual turnover of $200m.

The report found that organisations seek different skills and experience from the Chair and Advisors.  This is valuable insight if you are seeking to add value at a board level as part of your portfolio.

Organisations are seeking to engage with people at a board level who can clearly contextualise their previous experience to the current and future needs of the organisation.

Sector Expertise Drives Broader Insights

An Advisory Board is an effective vehicle to access a wider view of the market for business owners and leaders. Industry expertise is highly valuable for operational or consulting style engagements however businesses are seeking sector expertise from their Advisory Board. When selecting Advisors, businesses are seeking more than industry knowledge as this is often present already within the business.

They want Advisors who are leaders in their field with a broader view of sector dynamics than the business currently holds.

What’s driving business demand for sector expertise?

  • 45% of businesses wants insights into Technical Problem Solving
  • 30% of businesses have Future Intent to be in a specific market
  • 24% of businesses seek Market Intelligence to explore new opportunities

Building Your Portfolio Career

The reality is there are no short cuts to building a high quality, sustainable and enjoyable portfolio career.  It takes focused work and time.  The professionals that I speak with every day that are interested in starting or growing their portfolio are not afraid of work- but they are often time-poor so want to ensure that they are doing the right work and the right time.

A few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Take inventory of your skills, experience and knowledge. How current are you?  What are the gaps in your knowledge or areas you need to focus on for your professional development.
  • Take inventory of your network and sector connections.
  • Define your ideal portfolio mix.
  • Develop and execute a 90 day personal action plan. At the end of each quarter, review and refresh your plan.

As you work through these decisions, don’t lose sight of why you are investigating a portfolio career.

You have the power of choice.  What options will you explore?

Gain practical support on evaluating your options and building your pathway to a portfolio career with the “Executive Transitions to a Portfolio Career” self-paced program.

Knowing when and where to take the next step for your Executive career is no longer a straightforward decision. The Executive Transitions to Portfolio Career program gives you insight into your options to support you in discovering your own path to a portfolio career.

This program is designed for professionals who are considering a portfolio career or have recently started their journey towards building a solid portfolio of work. It is valuable for anyone in a period of transition, including those that may also be seeking to return to work in a full time, interim or project-based capacity.

View the full program details now.