Employment Sustainability

I met someone this weekend who is a great supporter of portfolio working for new entrants into the world of work. She works in a student careers office and when I described my portfolio work she immediately said that it was something she was suggesting to students to build up their CVs in the current economic climate.

This suggests the portfolio-working trend is on the increase. Students are following this as a career path to grow their work experience post-graduation and create a more sustainable working life in difficult times. I know from personal experience that even when the economy is good it is difficult as a graduate to find a graduate job. I recall the numerous rejection letters I and my university colleagues received before we finally found work. However, with the huge debt that students are already burdened with it is not surprising that several jobs might be needed to counterbalance the situation they are in.

One of the things I have been aiming towards in my portfolio work is ‘sustainability’. Making sure that the work I do can continue longer term, become established with good reputation, help me grow and develop professionally and sustain my living costs with money to spare. At the moment I am trying to combine this with ‘fiscal responsibility’ (mentioned on BBC Radio 4 recently) which means only spending what you can afford. Naturally risk taking is good too but we’ve all been seduced by the easy credit situation and look where that has got us.

Perhaps students will have to start thinking more about this too. Is it no longer realistic to move away from home to study? Can they study in their home town? Is university always the answer to a successful career? Are there alternatives? Traineeships? Apprenticeships?

I am also alarmed to hear on the grapevine recently that companies in the city of London are increasingly under pressure to import staff from their own countries to work in their London offices because British staff can’t speak foreign languages. Perhaps British students need to think more about this area of study to increase their chances of the career they want. It would seem the UK education system may not have considered the issues of employment sustainability in this country when they decided to end compulsory languages at GCSE.

Portfolio-working is more than just a way of work. It also raises many issues regarding employment sustainability, personal career choice, our impact on the economy and environment and our own futures. Perhaps this should be something recommended in job centres too? Or is it already? I’d love to hear from careers advisers at Job Centre Plus to find out.

My favourite Zeitgeist words for this blog:

  1. Portfolio-working
  2. Fiscal responsibility
  3. Employment sustainability

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Red Rocket
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 14:09:40

    I like the concept of portfolio working and there’s a number of PR people doing it, combining freelancing with other things to get the right work-life balance. Alas, I’m not sure that businesses and the government (through the tax system) are that geared up for it. Do you think that your portfolios need to be related to each other? E.g. doing marketing and market research?


    • trailblzrwoman
      Aug 23, 2010 @ 15:19:17

      The tax system can handle portfolios and it is possible to be simultaneously PAYE and self employed. However, it would be nice to have some more credit for managing our own NI and tax administration.

      Some employers tend to be a little shy of utilising people with portfolios as they think they can not be trusted, are unreliable, ‘flaky’ or can’t commit but this can also be true of employers towards freelancers.

      PFWs (portfolio workers) sometimes have to work hard to persuade employers to take them seriously. Mixing portfolios is always going to be up to the judgement of the individual and depends entirely on the skillset of the PFW. It is often tempting to make a judgement on the ability of a mixed portfolio but companies should try to resist this temptation.


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