Paul White, executive and career coach at Sandpiper Coaching, says creating a professional career portfolio and dedicating your time to different roles can be the key to achieving balance, utilising core skills and giving back to society – but equally importantly, it can employees from being tied to one employer. He told People Management how the idea works in practice.

What is a ‘career portfolio’?
It is where you take advantage of increased flexibility in the labour market and construct a career made up of a number of different elements and experience, testing your skills and abilities by trying new ventures or working in different sectors.

It can include activities such as consulting, starting a business or being a board director. You can deliver quite a lot in a short time if you focus on your core skills, so effective time management means that professionals can balance different work activities. You can view your regular job as low-risk because that’s your stable salary, and a start-up would be high risk because you might get a high return, but you might also lose your money. It’s like an investment portfolio – but instead of investing money, you are investing your time.

How do you advise professionals to start building their career portfolio?
While the UAE system limits employees’ ability to work for multiple organisations due to visa regulations, there is a limited amount of part-time work now being allowed. Studies have also shown that large numbers of Emiratis want to launch start-ups. This presents an opportunity for professionals to create a portfolio – by investing their time and energy in different projects. With a successful career behind you and some savings in the bank, the idea of a career portfolio could become a trend in the UAE.

Is having multiple skills better than a very specific skill set?
We live in an age of obsolescence, where today’s latest thing becomes tomorrow’s average. So it is always beneficial to have a set of alternative interests and skills that one day could serve as the centre of a new phase of your career.

The function of a portfolio of career options varies at different life stages. If you’re in your early career, then it’s an opportunity to experiment in new areas. Those who are mid-career can use a career portfolio to transition to a new area, while professionals at the end of their careers can indulge in other activities simply for variety.

Are there any risks to be aware of?
It depends on whether the person is already in a job and intending to keep it in order to have some stability – if so, overload could become a problem. Cash flow is important too. It depends on what kind of lifestyle the person leads and what amount of money they have behind them, because it is a risk to take on additional projects and ventures, so they have to sit down and do the sums. Having said that, the whole idea of a career portfolio is to experiment in a new area and keep the risk low by maintaining a stable income or working part-time in something familiar.

I would also recommend getting permission from your sponsor before undertaking any additional work – and clearly, you shouldn’t start up something in competition with your main job.

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