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Alex Pye, one of Adviza’s professional careers advisers, talks about a life of learning, thinking beyond 9-5 and what its like to dabble and develop several career paths simultaneously.

We’re often led to believe that there’s only one direction we can go when facing career paths. We assume we have to go one way or the other – but what if you could take several paths?

You may have multiple career aspirations. They might be vocations that don’t really complement each other; like a gardener and carpenter: a scientist and video editor; a computer game designer and footballer.

Some of the roles and careers you consider may be linked by common themes, some may be entirely different.  But across all of them it is very likely that these multiple careers carry common transferrable skills; skills that can be exploited to make the most of the opportunities ahead of you.

Consider a portfolio career

We see an increasing trend towards “portfolio careers” where, instead of working in a traditional full-time job, people take multiple jobs. They might be part-time, temporary, freelancing or self-employed. They may involve different employers, working on short, medium or long term contracts. Combined they can give you the equivalent of a traditional working week and a full income.

As careers advisers, we need to encourage people to do more than just aim for a career that is the closest match to their skills profile, or only look at what is available locally.

I am convinced that young people in particular should see portfolio careers as a way to embrace and exploit their many talents, interests and potential areas of expertise. This seems to be a much better proposition than struggling with an ill-fitting or unfulfilling role that doesn’t feel right.

My portfolio career

I am a portfolio worker and consider myself lucky and privileged. I am a Careers Adviser for 2.5 days a week working in a mix of mainstream and alternative schools in Berkshire, as well as with unemployed young people in the community. My role is to help young people raise aspirations, recognise skills and build confidence in transitioning to the next stage of their life.

For the other 2.5 days of my week, I work in statistics and database management – immersing myself in SQL code and writing reports, interpreting data and presenting it in a way that makes it clear and accessible to others.

I’m also a smallholder, farming a small patch of land and 20 beef cattle and growing organic fruit and veg just outside Newbury. I hold expedition medicine and first aid qualifications. I built my own house. I teach kayaking, canoeing and archery. I’m an Officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training) Branch. I train and assess Duke of Edinburgh Awards. I have a NVQ in catering. I lead adventure training expeditions in the UK and overseas. I dabble in photography, in computer networking and engineering. I am learning to keep bees.

I don’t see my “working” week as 9-5 – it’s everything; all of it packed in, shoehorned and squeezed around the biggest and most important part of my life: my wonderful wife and two amazing children.

Some of the skills and roles I have been doing for years; others I am just picking up now. Some of it tops up my salary from my “conventional job” – others deplete those earnings!

“I have found career happiness in my multiple, non-linear and somewhat unconventional portfolio career”

I feel content and satisfied with this balance. It keeps me on my toes, I’m always learning new skills, it keeps me energised and invigorated. Dare I say, I have found career happiness in my multiple, non-linear and somewhat unconventional portfolio career?

So don’t be afraid to say that you want to do more than one thing. Don’t channel yourself down one particular avenue or get trapped in one particular role. Don’t compromise if you don’t want to. Don’t let your 9-5 dictate, determine or define who or what you are.

Look around. Dabble in something you’ve never done before and learn from it. Sometimes it won’t suit you – sometimes it’ll give you a warm fuzzy feeling and sometimes it’s so awesome you’ll forget that you have a “conventional job” in the first place.

Need help to plan your career? Book a one-to-one session.

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