When I was young there was an awful lot of pressure on us kids to define what we ‘wanted to be’. Like someone had set one of those sand egg timers and you had three minutes to answer "when I grow up I want to be a Nurse/Doctor/Lawyer/Engineer". At school we had careers advice lessons which were wholly impractical. For a start they concentrated on the subjects you were taking at school. Considering I took a collection of odd bin subjects like rural science/ chemistry and commerce I suspect the only thing I was geared up for was being a Travelling Sales Rep for the farming industry! No one asked me what I liked doing. Did they ask you? Music was my passion but no one suggested I could become a Record Exec, a Radio Dj, Music show researcher or a club DJ. No, it wasn’t even considered. So I fell out of school into my first job. Found myself operating as a solo Market Researcher with an expense account for travel and grub, the open road in my sights. Destination Ringwood and Romsey baby, but heh I was a 17 year old in a fiat 126 so you can't expect too much!
I always felt incredibly envious of those who knew what they wanted to do. Take my friend Gwen for example. She knew from a very young age she wanted to work with animals. Her career trajectory has been microscopically managed and guess what? She does indeed work with animals!
From Tourist Guide to working in the Ops department at Heathrow, from Retail Manager to Air hostess. None of the jobs I've done have been the love of my life. I used to meet people flying who said their biggest dream was to fly and when I told them I applied as a dare they looked down their noses at me almost as if had taken the place of a real enthusiast.
It wasn’t until 2020 when I took voluntary redundancy that I realised things could be different. I created Crew Radio and was giving it my full attention then opportunities started to come knocking. I wont repeat what you can find in other blogs on this site, suffice it to say I have done a few different things over the last 2 years.
Until today I had no word for that but on listening to the brilliant Roberta Lucca on the 40 minute mentor podcast I finally have my word: Portfolio Career. She talks eloquently about combining various roles and making a career out of more than one job. What a eureka moment for me. Our society is obsessed with specialisation. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want a surgeon to tell me he did half his course before giving it up to windsurf off the coast of Cornwall just as he is about to use the scalpel! Some specialisms are necessary but the vast majority of us can do more than one thing and be more than one person.
So for those who have teenagers in the house perhaps you need to show them this blog and say it’s absolutely ok if they don’t know what they want to be. But first up let me say ‘not knowing what you want’ is not the same as being open to anything. We all have boundaries and our personalities are such that we would not fit into some environments. Take being a Prison Officer for example, I would be absolutely terrified every day of the week if I got chucked into that job and as for being an Accountant…God help the company who would employ me, I would lose whole lines of profit and expense. Plenty of fishes in the sea when it comes to jobs. A labyrinth of opportunity some might say!
The win win I see in this reframing of societal expectations is that we can give respect to those who don’t fall into clearly defined roles. I see a society where the standard answer to what do you do being something like this; 'On a Monday I am a Dog Walker, Tuesday I write copy for the local newspaper, Thursday I work in a bar and Friday I am in Love (sorry I couldn't resist that Cure classic -music is after all the metaphor of my life).
I currently have 5 jobs. They all give me something different and I enjoy the mix. Suddenly the kid who started out in a council house in Swindon has found that her wonderful obsession with the dressing up box is not an early sign of flakiness. I don’t have to be one thing all the time, in essence, each day, I can be something different and revel in the delight of variety.
Marketing professionals will know this, but let me tell you something of immense interest to me. Earlier Alchemists were obsessed with turning lead into gold. Of course they never managed to do it.. but first you need to ask the question why was/is gold so valuable? A sort of reframing works here. In today’s society a computer software programme or a rare Hermés bag might be as valuable but it’s the societal focus we give something that makes it valuable. Did you know years ago there was so much salmon in the Thames that they made the apprentices and poorest people have it? I can just imagine Eliza the matchstick girl exclaiming in her Bermondsey best accent "oh nahhh not bleeding Salmon again"! Think of that next time you hear a first class passenger say in an Etonian accent "I'll have the cured wild salmon carpaccio with caramel Jhalmuri and pea chutney". Different era, the discourse prevails as they say in sociology.
Speaking as one who has always dipped in and out of many things and been called on more than one occasion in a disparaging way ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. I am immensely happy about the opportunity to reframe my life purpose. My very reason for existing so to speak.
For those who want to try this way of life, I say ‘be brave’ and embrace the adventure. Magic exists all around us but we are the ones who make it. The belief that someone will pop a rabbit out of top hat is pretty far fetched, however, if you happen to be the one with the top hat and the rabbit then I say "anything is possible"! In the meantime the next time someone asks "what do you do" say "I have a portfolio career and am pursuing my passion projects" and if you are in the Doctors surgery get the hell out of there ASAP!!!