Experts have been predicting changes in working patterns for some years now and the huge increase in the number of people who now work from home is testament to just one of these.

With so many employers being forced to cut back their workforces to survive the current economic downturn, another of the anticipated changes — which is very much in evidence at the moment — is the growth in portfolio careers.

What is a portfolio career?

The term “portfolio career” refers to a career that involves working in two or more roles at the same time.

This might mean working full- or part-time in two similar or quite distinct roles for two different employers in two related or separate industries.

Or it could entail combining full- or part-time work as a paid employee with running a business or doing freelance or contract work.

It could even involve a mixture of paid or self-employed work with regular voluntary work. In fact, it could be a combination of any of these roles.

Of course, for many people who are struggling to make ends meet in countries that are experiencing economically troubled times, taking up a portfolio career hasn’t so much been an active choice, but rather the result of not being able to find a single full-time job in their field of expertise.

Many workers have had to accept part-time roles just to bring some money into the household, and many of these are taking on several part-time jobs simultaneously.

For others, the threat of lay-offs and the ongoing sense of dissatisfaction caused by job insecurity have led to them holding down their full-time positions at the same time as building up businesses which they hope will sustain them in the future.

Advantages

Of those who have deliberately chosen a portfolio career, some have done so to inject variety into their working lives. 

Not content with spending all day working in the same role and field and for the same employer daily, some have chosen to diversify their activities so that they gain increased satisfaction from each.

Others, meanwhile, have used a portfolio career to enable them to combine their true work passions with something that pays the bills, or to provide financial security while they switch to a completely different occupation.

Therefore, portfolio careers can be used to serve a variety of ends and they have a number of benefits, including the opportunities for workers to:

* Work for a variety of different bosses or clients;

* Develop a wider range of skills and experience;

* Use a different mix of skills;

* Introduce greater flexibility into their working lives;

* Experience a greater variety of working environments;

* Increase their earning capacities (it is often possible to earn more by doing two part-time jobs than one full-time job);

* Try out different fields and industries; and

* Move gradually into different areas of work or build businesses gradually with less financial risk.

Disadvantages

But like everything, portfolio careers do have their downsides, and these are well worth considering before embarking on this type of work pattern. The main disadvantages include:

* Poorer compensation packages: Although it is possible to get paid more in terms of cold, hard cash by working two part-time jobs, part-time workers typically don’t receive the same levels of benefits such as pension contributions, private medical insurance, sick pay and so on.

* Exhaustion: Working on two or more different jobs which require you to be at different locations and use different skills and abilities can be physically and mentally exhausting, especially if it is done over any great length of time.

* Overcommitment: The phrase “jack of all trades and master of none” comes to mind here because if you have too many different things going on at once, it can become impossible to give enough of your time and attention to any one in particular. Not only can this prevent you from earning more by becoming an expert in any one field, but it can also lead to poor levels of performance across the board.