Our 'portfolio careers' turn us into jacks of all trades

It's increasingly common for people to say things like: "I have three jobs. I'm a lawyer for several small companies, a professional cook and a food writer.

"I work in a restaurant four nights a week, run a small shop three days a week and bake products for my husband's shop one day a week."

"I am a lighting designer, professional photographer and Reiki practitioner."

These are real examples of people who have portfolio careers. The term essentially refers to a person doing two or more different jobs for different employers.

What they have in common is that they've all had difficulty in finding a single job or even a career that used all of their skills and allowed them to tap into all of their passions. They've all found that there is an alternative to the 20th century dream of finding "the one job that is right for you". For many people that dream has become a nightmare, as every job is now temporary.

People who opt for this work style like it because it gives them variety. Also, they don't have all their career eggs in one basket. If one job gets boring, they can focus more on the other ones or indeed even ditch the boring one. If they lose one job, they have other revenue streams to rely on.

We've discovered that maybe a million-plus people have been and are developing portfolio careers without being aware that this style of working is becoming more popular or indeed has a name. It is a growing career pattern. Of the case studies in new book And What Do You Do? 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career, Trish takes the prize for the most jobs – eight.

For many, the attraction is that you largely have your independence even if you're working for a number of different organisations.

Plus you have relative freedom from corporate agendas and politics. You

can use your unique combination of strengths. You can follow multiple passions. It's often easier to say "no" to a request or demand. You constantly develop and learn new skills.

There can also be more leisure time. You might even want to add an existing hobby or passion to your portfolio.

Michelle is a city events organiser who discovered Pilates after having back problems and decided to train to teach it. She says she enjoys the blend of two very different jobs, allowing her to express who she really is.

She also earns more than she would by doing her city job full time.

So, who's doing it? Young people starting out on a career; those who want their own business but are not yet ready to give up their jobs; those who have other responsibilities and need a work/life blend; people over 50 who still want to work but not do more of the same; and those with disabilities. It's not a career pattern for everyone, but those who have embraced it rarely go back to a traditional career.

It helps if you are an excellent time manager and organiser, able to work well under pressure, comfortable with little separation between your work and the rest of your life, a risk taker, self-directed, high-energy, assertive, comfortable being your own boss, not hung up on financial security, a networker and marketer, someone who can work to deadlines and who learns from their mistakes. You

need to be a self-starter and preferably not a perfectionist.

Breathless? Welcome to the world of portfolio careers.

The book and website promote portfolio careers as a very real option with many pluses for organisations, as well as for individuals. We've written this because we're excited about helping people to realise there is another way to earn money, derive meaning and hey, even to sprinkle a little magic into our working lives. You can and should be the architect of your own future.

So how do we answer the dreaded question: "And what do you do?"

Simple. We say: "I have a portfolio career", then step back and wait for the questions that follow.

I am an author, part-time chairman of Axia Interactive Media, non-exec director of Three Albion Place – the successor to the old Leeds Club, I present on portfolio careers and the pluses of being 50-plus, I blog on both these subjects and am writing an ebook.

Co-writer Katie Ledger says: "I am an author, communications consultant, conference host and producer, presentation and media coach, reporter for BBC Click, do voice-overs for TV programmes, blogger

and presenter."

Visit www.portfolio careers.net.

Dr Barrie Hopson and Katie Ledger are authors of And What Do You Do? 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career by A&C Black (12.99). To order a copy from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop call free on 0800 0153232 or go online at www.yorkshirepostbookshop.co.uk. Postage and packing is 2.75.