Exploring the Portfolio Life | When You Don’t Know What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

Exploring the Portfolio Life | When You Don’t Know What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

Following my last breakup with a J-O-B, I gave myself a few days to gulp, regroup, and consider what would come next.

After years of making ends meet with adjunct teaching positions and part-time contract work, I had thought I would get on the full-time career track once my children were out of school. When I finally found a way to hop on the corporate freight train (which was not easy in my mid 40s), I realized that my free-wheeling-stay-at-home-contract work-Mom days may have ruined me for working a traditional 9-5 job.

Though I’d read just about every popular book on the subject of finding the perfect career or small business, I still hadn’t found what I was looking for. So when Jeff Goin’s book, The Art of Workkept popping up in newsfeeds and e-newsletters, I said, “What can it hurt?” (But inside I thought, “I doubt it will help.”)

While the book didn’t cover a lot of new ground for a self-help junkie like me, it gave me a name for an idea I’d been chewing on during the eight months I spent at a forty-hour-a-week job. Not long after I began work, I began chafing at the single-taskedness (I know that’s not a word.) of that position. I began to wonder how could anyone do the same thing for thirty years. On darker days, I wondered what was wrong with me, and why I could not be content with my perfectly good job with a respected company. I liked my co-workers and the steady income but realized I longed for the flexible schedule and daily variety that I’d found in being a mother, a teacher, and a whole host of other volunteer roles. So when I arrived at the chapter that described a portfolio life, I had an a-ha moment. I knew I’d already found how I wanted to work when I grew up

The original concept of a portfolio worker is credited to Charles Handy who wrote about it in his book The Age of Unreason. Goins takes Handy’s idea of a portfolio worker, who earns a living through a variety of income sources and endeavors, and applies it more broadly to a person’s life–a portfolio life.

To a certain extent, this is how I have lived my adult life, but I didn’t consider it a legitimate way to live or work. I saw it as a temporary phase I was going through so I could help my husband make ends meet while raising our children rather than an intentional perspective on work and life. Sometimes I feel I’m living in an extended adolescence career-wise because I’ve not established myself in a profession. Every now and again I still catch myself quipping “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”

As I worked through the fallout of my last big job breakup, I began to realize that what seemed to be haphazard, fruitless years of jobs, education, and volunteer work, may actually be seeds that could blossom into a satisfying and eclectic portfolio life.

I wrote the draft of this post five months ago thinking I would start a new blog about my explorations of a portfolio life, but I haven’t had time. Recent events brought this post to mind when I needed to hear it again, and I realized it was time to dust these ideas off and share them on my current blog as a series.

So if you’d like to explore the portfolio life with me, stay tuned for more posts in this series: Exploring the Portfolio Life.

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