How to Develop a Portfolio Career

The path laid out for many of us is school, university, job, change job, change job etc.  What happens if you would like to do something else?  Then this blog is for you.  I have developed what I call a portfolio or squiggly career.

Something Wasn’t Right For Me

Let me share a whistle-stop tour of my path with you, it was school, university, jobs. All successful – however, something just wasn’t right for me, I needed something more, this for me was having flexibility, increased earning, enjoyment and increased creativity.  It has taken me thirteen years of developing a portfolio career alongside mainstream jobs. 

I was Invited to Give a Talk to Trainee Teachers

My first opportunity came through being invited to give a talk to trainee teachers for a large initial teacher organisation.  As a Head of Department in a secondary school, I had previously mentored trainee teachers and other staff, this was a transferable skill that I had, so I delivered my first session in 2010.

This led to an opportunity to be a subject matter expert for BBC Teach videos that were being developed.  In all honesty, in my initial phone call, I was sweating, the person who was commissioning me asked if I had done this sort of work before, I hadn’t and said so, but I knew my content and am reliable.  They gave me the opportunity!

Gaining Confidence

I gained confidence and insight.  Then when opportunities arose at work to do my senior leadership qualifications – NPQSL, I took these opportunities and led a whole school project, outside of my skill set.

I Took On Freelance Work

I continued working in this way for some time, taking on freelance work alongside the day job and being open to opportunities.  Then in 2016, I moved counties due to love!  This was an opportunity to re-evaluate what I wanted.

Using my professional network, I secured a role to cover the South West region for a large grassroots organisation.  This involved driving all across the region, visiting teachers, creating roadshows for teachers and students, delivering teacher CPD, planning and delivering conferences.  All of these are very involved tasks!

Each role gave me new knowledge and skills, such as, invoicing, liaising with my accountant (I don’t find managing HMRC easy) and increased confidence.  I also strategically started managing my professional network, such as writing articles/blogs for publications and leveraging my social media.

My Lived Experience Helped Me Write a Book

At the time I also got an opportunity to write a book – Computer Science Teacher – insight into the Computing Classroom.  The book is aimed at new entrants to the teaching profession and specifically to teaching Computing/Computer Science.  It was my lived experience. I entered teaching after having had a career in corporate IT, successfully led a department and delivered for my teachers and learners in our care.  The commissioning editor asked for 30,000 words.  I was daunted.  I doubted myself.  But I found inner strength, I knew that opportunity does not knock twice, I wrote and wrote – the book is over 55,000 words.  I was proud, I had become a published author. I had a book in me and I delivered!

Asked to Replicate My Work – Nationally

A while later, I was approached to replicate the work I was doing in the Southwest, on a national scale. I took the post and challenge!  Little did I realise that less than a year into my role, we would all be plunged into a pandemic.  That was a challenge, to lead a team through the pandemic and to deliver.  The team and I did this successfully.

What I should say, alongside all of this, is that I kept developing myself outside of my job roles, taking courses on FutureLearn, attending conferences, developing my speaking and presenting skills, courses on how to manage social media and lots more!

Lack of Representation For Women in Tech

With lots of time at home during the pandemic, I reflected, on a few of the big issues in the technology industry, namely, a lack of women in tech roles. Lack of representation from minority groups.  Feeling that I wanted to do something about this, I decided to address this by children reading for pleasure about technology.  I crafted a children’s book series – The Digital Adventures of Ava and Chip.  Now I have self-published 2 books in the series with more to come.  Learning a lot about the book and publishing industry along the way! I am sure there is more to learn!

Embracing Change for a Portfolio Career

Due to funding cuts, the national role came to an end.  This was time for change.  I am a great believer in embracing change.  For some time, I had considered coaching and mentoring as a career pathway.

I decided to invest in myself and enrolled for an ILM course on coaching and mentoring.   Which involved coaching practice and sourcing clients along with theory and assignments.  This allowed me to formalise quite a lot of what I had done through my previous roles.

Using my marketing skills to attract consulting work, nationally and internationally, involving a variety of activities, such as resource writing, public speaking, advising, social media collaborations, article writing.  Being open to new experiences is one of the best things I have done.

A Few Downsides

It all sounds positive, doesn’t it?  Any entrepreneur will tell you there are a few downsides, such as cash flow, being relevant, learning how to manage people who approach you to “work for free”, this one comes in many guises, which you have to learn to negotiate tactfully! However, I feel that for every downside there are multiple positives.

My portfolio career has been influenced by having a positive attitude and openness to change! All rooted in realism.  Yes, some luck and opportunity come into play – and this is so for everyone. 

However, there have been challenges along the way, such as balancing work and family time. Some of the skills and attitudes I have gained are learning how to turn negatives into positives, how to invest in and market myself and being resilient.

When Do You Plan For Success?

One of the best pieces of advice I received on my journey was – when do you plan for success?  I would like you to consider, wherever you are now in your career and ask yourself this question.  What answers do you have?  I put aside one day a month, which has this title in my diary.  I sit and think, what do I need to do to be successful?  Try it!  Have you made any realisations?  How will you get to where you wish to be? 

Another exercise you can do is a SWOT Analysis (look at your Strengths, Weaknesses/Areas for Development, Opportunities to develop and any Threats to what you desire) Use the grid below to conduct your SWOT Analysis. 






In Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this whistle-stop tour.  If you would like to coach with me for a transformative experience.  Please visit my website and quote  CLARITY50 in your message, this will entitle you to a clarity session at half the currently advertised price valid until the end of December 2023).

Connect With Me

I am a TechWomen100 Award winner and a leader in education. A former teacher, I have developed a portfolio career, as an education consultant, published author, ambassador, coach, mentor, speaker and trustee. I seek to raise the outcomes for all through understanding of and access to technology.  I have national and international experience in computing education.

Additionally, through my childrens’ book series, I am a #SBS small business Sunday award winner

Connect with me via the contact form on this site!

This article first appeared and was featured on the DidTeach website in June 2023.