The Hot New Work Trend: Portfolio Careers


multitaskingRuss Juskalian, 30, is a journalist based in Munich who has reported from Southeast Asia, above the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland and from the Himalayan foothills in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

As you’d expect, he writes articles related to his travels. But, unlike most journalists, he also sells his photos, giving him a second career as a photographer.

If that weren’t enough, in his spare time, he teaches classes in science writing, international freelancing and travel writing through an online program offered by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“My schedule varies dramatically from week to week, month to month,” he says. “Because I have so many competing things going on—writing, editing images, pitching, preparing for upcoming classes, grading student work—I tend to compartmentalize my time, so that I have a series of tasks that I must get done before moving on to the next ones.”

So-called “slashers,” like reporter/photographer/teacher Juskalian, are part of an emerging trend known as the “portfolio career.” And if you’re the right personality type, it can be an incredibly rewarding—and profitable—career move.

How Portfolio Careers Became So Big

Marci Alboher, author of “One Person/Multiple Careers,” defines “slashers” as individuals who’ve created a “portfolio career” involving multiple identities. Their income comes from part-time employment, temporary work, freelance assignments or a personal business—or they work a full-time job, while pursuing other lucrative interests.

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Barrie Hopson, co-author of “10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career,” says that this  type of career offers a much more fulfilling work-life blend, not to mention a safety net of several jobs—so if you lose one or choose to quit a job, you’ll still have other sources of income.

During the heart of the recession, people took on portfolio careers out of necessity. So now that the job market is improving, why is the slasher lifestyle becoming even more common? “Increasingly, people are finding that they don’t want to do the same thing day in and day out,” Hopson says. “The traditional, single-track career pattern of the last century (think ladder) is now more difficult to find, and if you do pursue that, you’ll almost certainly have to move between companies.”

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That said, portfolio careers aren’t for everyone.

  • JackieAU5

    Wow, I have been spreading my interests for a little while now not even realizing that “portfolio career” is a term!  Although I have 1 main full-time job, I’ve started a blog that people have finally taken notice of, help out planning events, and help with family and friends’ social media for small businesses. I need to start charging! Thanks for making me realize I’m not an unfocused mess but rather taking a progressive career path! This brightened my day, thanks again LearnVest.

  • Brandijordan Bj

    So happy to hear that my business ADD has a name and I’m not just a unfocused dreamer.  Great article.

  • Tiffany M. Hughes

    I love this post! Like JackieAU5 and Brandijordan Bj, I’m apparently a “slasher” myself, though I’d never really known it. I had many reasons to start pursuing a multifaceted solo career, and variety was a top motivator. I wanted to keep myself entertained (for lack of a better word) by working in a bunch of different fields, and I was also concerned about job security in this market; I’d already been laid off before and I wasn’t prepared to keep myself financially afloat; I’m now sitting on a significant amount of credit card debt because of it. I’m still holding down a full-time job because I haven’t grown any of my “side projects” enough to quit, but that’s the long-term goal, and I already have the wheels in motion.

    My favorite aspect of this article is the fact that it includes a framework for being a full-time slasher; I’ve been struggling for years, trying to decide what I need to do to be able to quit this full-time job, and this is an excellent guide. I’m bookmarking this article and I plan to use it to create an action plan so I can settle on an end date to the full-time job. :)

    Thanks for the article, Alyssa! You’ve renewed my passion for my slasher career, and validated my crazy way of life.

  • DFC

    I love this post! I’m a 48 year old ski instructor, kids’ book writer, tax accountant, and stay at home mom. I worked in corporate America for years, and now love my “portfolio career.” Thanks for sharing this!

  • brunchie

    Barbara Sher, author, calls it being a scanner.

  • Natori (aka R)

    This is really good article. I’ve done several freelance/contract jobs from my home, had full-time positions but I’m always searching for that one career. At the same time, I have so many interests. Now, I want to look more closely into food writing, voiceover, web design/coding classes. The possibilties are endless. The main jobs that I have done have mostly involved customer service (but I want to do something else very badly).

  • Martine

    So great to finally have a name for my style of career – cobbling together different sources of income and loving the variety. Thanks for a great article! It was reassuring to hear that not only is this a legitimate way to approach a career, but I’m actually built for it too.

  • Tyler M

    Do employers devalue Freelancing on a resume though? I’ve been told yes.