Aug 24

Why You Should Have a Portfolio Mindset for Your Career

In last week’s career post, I talked about the importance of keeping a full-time job while you test out an entrepreneurial idea. To help bring that idea to a personal level, I shared several stories from women who balance both a full-time job and a side hustle. Although a couple of them admitted the balancing act can be tricky at times, they ultimately expressed how empowered they feel by taking on extra work. These women, and so many others, are great examples of professionals who have a portfolio mindset. If you’re new to this concept or simply looking for inspiration to get started, read below to learn more about what it means to view your career from a portfolio perspective. 

Photographed in New York City by Erin Kestenbaum

What exactly is a portfolio mindset?

Having a portfolio mindset means you have multiple revenue streams and multiple layers to your professional identity. By doing this, you’re diversifying your options from both a career and financial standpoint, and ensuring that you’re never at the mercy of one employer. Let’s say you work full-time as a marketing coordinator, but after dedicating a couple years to the job, you’re let go and have no other source of income or experience in other fields. That would be pretty rough, right?

To hedge against having one full-time job and losing it, applying a portfolio mindset to your career would allow you to rely on your other sources of income to make things work as you look for other opportunities. Now, it might not always be possible to do this (especially early in your career) but I’d recommend internalizing the idea and carrying it with you as you make decisions in the future. Rather than viewing opportunities as either/or, consider when you might be able to integrate various options in front of you. It’s also important to note that this mindset doesn’t only apply to circumstances when you lose a job, but also situations when you’re unhappy in a job or ready to make a change. My portfolio consists of: Plan de Ville (my e-commerce site), PDV Advisory (the strategy consulting practice that emerged naturally after specializing in emerging luxury retail), management activities of businesses that I am involved  with, as well as content partnerships, and investing. 

A portfolio mindset that’s focused on your career mimics the concept of portfolio management in the investment world. Investopedia explains that because it’s impossible to consistently predict which investments will perform well, the prudent approach is to create a basket of investments that provide broad exposure within an asset class. Because it’s difficult to know which particular subset of an asset class or sector is likely to outperform another, diversification seeks to capture the returns of all of the sectors over time but with less volatility at any one time. Proper diversification takes place across different classes of securities, sectors of the economy, and geographical regions,” Investopedia explains. To summarize it, this means that investors would want to diversify their risk and reward, just like you would want to diversify your career and source of income to protect yourself.

You might be thinking, “jack of all trades, master of none?” However, the complete saying is, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” It’s always a good idea to plan ahead.

Why is it important?

It’s important because it does everything a well diversified financial portfolio does for you by hedging against the risk of being too heavily invested in one area. You would never want to focus 100% on one thing because if it doesn’t work out or you decide it’s not right for you, you’re left starting all over from square one. Just like you hopefully try to achieve a sense of balance in your personal life, you should aim to keep things fresh in your career (it’s also a good look on your resume!) 

If you’re curious as to which types of career paths should focus on a portfolio mindset, those without defined tracks would likely benefit the most. However, even with a defined path, it’s wise to have a backup plan that’s actively engaged and ready to deploy when needed.

How do I start?

Starting anything new can be a challenge, but my best advice for practicing this mindset is to follow your passions with intention. Pursue your interests and try to think about how you could turn them into things you could monetize. If you love writing, take on some freelance gigs. If you love to paint, work at an art gallery on the weekends. If you love to be active, get a yoga certification and teach classes during your spare time. A portfolio approach to your career will look different for everyone, but figuring out which areas you’d like to tap into should be fairly easy once you go back to the basics and ask yourself what you enjoy. 

If the thought of adding another commitment to your to-do list stresses you out, remember that it’s better to start small than to do nothing at all. A good way to get started that requires minimal time is by keeping your network actively engaged. Keep track of the people you admire in both your industry and other industries that interest you and make an effort to have coffee conversations with them. If you’re actively connecting with people outside of your network, you’re setting yourself up to have a strong future in other areas. Be sure to systematically reach out, with commitment and authenticity every few months, keep your professional relationships warm, and do things to help others all while helping them understand your long-term goals. They’ll think of you in moments when opportunities arise – and you’ll have the active trust in place to make the most of that opportunity.

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