By: Ben Legg, The Portfolio Collective

The pandemic forced a massive paradigm shift in the way we think about work. Before COVID, working from home was considered a perk, and having a side hustle seen as a distraction. Having just one job, for one employer – effectively being a corporate servant, in the office five days per week – was expected. If you worked from home or had a side hustle, you may have been seen as less committed to your employer. However, since workers across the globe were forced to work from home, we have learnt that we are MORE productive, not less. We have also realised that spinning up a side hustle is easier now than at any time in the past. 

What’s more significant is that this period of unrest made us stop and think about whether we were truly happy with traditional corporate life. With change comes reflection, and for many, that meant realising they weren’t happy with their careers. That’s why, since lockdown began in 2020, millions of people launched, or accelerated, portfolio careers that allowed them to navigate their own professional paths and take control of their own destinies. They were determined to place more value on their time, productivity, health, family, and overall happiness. The movement for career independence and self-sufficiency is gathering momentum.

Hence, the Great Resignation was born

“The Great Resignation” is a phrase that’s been thrown around quite a bit lately – you may have seen it trending on Twitter or splashed across news headlines. That’s because it’s a state of mind that has resonated with workers on a global scale. As the world opens up and restrictions get lifted, more people are refusing to go back to the way things were.

A Microsoft survey of over 30,000 global workers showed that 40% of people are considering changing jobs this year. In the UK and Ireland, that number is 38%. Add to that the rapidly growing number of startups popping onto the scene, set on displacing large, slow-moving companies, and you have a recipe for revolution. Newly formed businesses offer remote work as a standard, and realise from the outset that they can manage with a very small core team, supplemented by utilising part-time professionals as and when required. Portfolio professionals are part of the essential toolkit for the startup ecosystem. These could be anything from creative types, to non-executive directors to part-time executives and consultants that help build these companies.

According to Upwork’s Freelance Forward report, 75% of people who started freelancing during the pandemic make the same or more money than they did in traditional work, and 58% plan on remaining independent. That’s because a portfolio career provides autonomy and flexibility, all whilst allowing you to charge premium rates for your advanced skills.

The rising popularity of portfolio careers

There’s never been a better time to start a portfolio career – but how can you be sure if it’s the right path for you? It all comes down to what you’re hoping to achieve. Portfolio work may not look as stable as a traditional job, but it does put you in control of how you work, who you work with and how much you earn. Plus, you’re not limited to doing just one thing. Many portfolio professionals pursue multi-hyphenate paths in which they juggle several diverse projects and roles simultaneously. This allows them to focus on the things they’re passionate about whilst also doing the kind of work that pays the bills.

Take, for example, Matt Ward, a member of The Portfolio Collective community. For thirteen years, he worked as a helicopter test pilot for the British Army and Royal Navy. When the pandemic hit, he decided to pivot his focus. Now, he works independently as a user experience expert and automated technologies consultant. Alongside that, he finds time to focus on his beekeeping passion, and is even writing a book for other bee enthusiasts.

Then you have those who have shifted from the tech world to the portfolio space, most notably the Xoogler population (AKA ex-Google employees). People who leave jobs at Google or any of the other tech giants find it unpalatable to side-step straight to similar large tech firms, and the thought of going to a dying corporation fills them with dread. They still want to do meaningful work, and a portfolio career allows them to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and continue to innovate on their own terms.

How do you know if it’s time to see what else is out there?

Four million Americans quit their jobs this past April. In the UK, the post-pandemic talent exodus is predicted to cost businesses up to £17B. As the world changes, we need to adapt. For many, that means leaving behind what we’re used to and embracing a new way of working.

So how can you be sure if now is the right time for you to make a big career change? First and foremost, you need to ask yourself if you’re truly happy doing what you do now. If not, it’s time to do something about it.

Here are few red flags that could indicate it’s time to move on:

  • Your organisation feels like a dinosaur that is dying a slow death
  • You’re not learning skills that will future-proof your career
  • You’re wasting too much time on pointless meetings, internal politics, bureaucracy, and commuting
  • Your work is adversely affecting your health
  • You dread going to work every morning
  • You don’t feel passionate about the work you’re doing
  • You don’t have a good work-life balance
  • Your work environment is toxic 

A toxic job is harmful – literally, it can make you sick. When you’re unhappy at work, your stress levels are higher, you sleep less, and you’re at greater risk for anxiety and depression.

If this sounds familiar, then it’s time to reevaluate your goals. Really think about your short and long-term plans. Then consider all the options available to you. Maybe you’d prefer to work for a purpose-driven startup. Or maybe you’re ready to branch out on your own and launch a portfolio career.

What’s important is that you don’t simply sidestep into another harmful work environment. Give yourself the time to really explore what’s out there and settle on the right fit.

Think a portfolio career might be right for you?

You are far from alone. According to Upwork, the US gig economy is expanding three times faster than the national workforce – and that’s just the beginning. Every day, we encounter portfolio professionals who crave a new, more purposeful way of working. When you take control of your career, you get to focus on the things that make you happy. What could be better than that?

In the last year alone, we’ve helped thousands of people learn, develop and launch stronger portfolio careers via our online community and our Catapult course. Our course is designed to give you the tools you need to strengthen and sustain a lucrative portfolio career and help you diversify the way you work. 

Interested in learning more about portfolio careers? Come along to our free weekly Welcome Call to get all your burning questions answered. You can also become a member of our community and learn directly from those who have found success through portfolio work. The more you connect with other professionals, the better equipped you’ll be to leave that toxic job behind and pursue a better path.

Ben Legg is an engineer, author, former soldier, and CEO of The Portfolio Collective. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to reinvent society.

The Portfolio Collective is offering one month free Pioneer membership to all friends of Atheneum Collective! Visit their website and use code TPC-ATHENEUM to redeem.