Today’s career paths no longer follow a linear trajectory. Unlike your parents’ or grandparents’ careers, people no longer enter a job believing they’ll stay with that employer for the long haul.
Employers have come to understand that career paths are seldom a straight line, and if candidates display a seemingly unrelated job history, it no longer carries a stigma but shows that they — like anyone with a bit of mettle — are multi-dimensional.
This new world of expanded versions of job experience lends itself more to a career portfolio than a career path. Some may have run across portfolios in schools or colleges where they’ve been utilized to grade students based on “artifacts” and accomplishments — whether related or tangential to their area of study — rather than tests and papers.
Today’s hiring managers have taken a similar approach to reviewing job candidates’ resumes. They search out those who show initiative, courage, and creativity as much, if not more than, experience in their field.
Passionate pursuits are considered a plus — especially when candidates can make a solid case for the cumulative skills they’ve gained and contributions they will therefore be able to make.
For example, if you earned an MBA, but instead of immediately taking a job in finance, you spent the next two years as an outdoor adventure guide in South America, you may have a leg-up in a company doing business in Latin countries over someone who spent the equivalent time behind a desk.
You can parlay your people and language skills, cultural competency, and leadership abilities into your next stage of discovery along your passion-driven career.
Thinking of your career as a portfolio rather than a straight, ascending path allows you to explore different facets of yourself as you make your way in the world.
You could have, for instance, received formal training as a mental health counselor, but then followed a twisting path of positions from doing art therapy with children, to leading women’s retreats, to writing an advice blog, to working on a research team deciphering the cognition of marine animals.
A career portfolio catalogs your range of experiences that combine to describe your own unique professional journey.
Here’s how to take a portfolio-building approach to your career:
If it appears that some of your peers have their lives entirely figured out while you have no clear sense of what next steps to take, don’t despair.
Stay open and flexible to opportunities that feel right, even if they may not slot in nicely with what others expect when paving your professional future. Trust your instincts to lead you on a purposeful path where you can make your mark.
2. Forget about paying your dues
Avoid any mind-numbing, soul-crushing grunt jobs just to get your foot in the door. Instead, choose to engage in work that allows you to shine because you care about what you’re doing and are able to capitalize on the learning it offers.
If your enthusiasm and initiative stand out to those with opportunities to offer, all the better! One caveat, however — make sure to stay technologically savvy as the vast majority of today’s jobs require an adequate level of understanding.
3. Tout your experiences and capabilities
Your portfolio need not be limited to paid positions, but can include anything that reflects your talents, experiences, individuality, and potential adaptability. If your favorite free-time pursuit is birding, include that, too!
Think outside of the resume box and plug those qualities that combine to give a prismatic sense of you. Effectively share your common denominator with employers so they’re aware of how all the disparate parts of your career portfolio add up to a winning combination.
4. Try out different jobs to learn what’s the best fit
Whether sampling separate industries that call to you or exploring different facets of one profession, take a learn-as-you-go attitude until the stars align.
Finding your optimum professional fit can involve any number of factors — from being able to pursue interesting projects, to landing with a creative and respectful team, to work that enables you to achieve a flow state.
Keep in mind, also, that the best fit for you is likely to change over time.
5. Keep a focus on personal as well as professional development
A career portfolio is a way to leverage your strengths, and this includes your strength of character. Strive to develop qualities of discipline, honesty, and integrity.
This involves surrounding yourself with people you admire — ideally as mentors who can help you develop emotional strength — and building your capacity to navigate your career with purpose, clarity, adaptability, and authenticity.
The forces driving today’s professions call for independent and creative problem-solvers. Candidates who have a diverse range of experiences and life lessons will be sought after, providing they craft their career portfolios boldly and decisively.