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The Age

A multiple-choice answer

Author: Amy Ripley
Date: 09/03/2013
Words: 659
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: My Career
Page: 3
Holding several jobs at once can be the key to a balanced life, writes Amy Ripley.

Michelle Kvello has what many of us dream of: a work-life balance. Despite often working a 60-hour week, she has enough time to catch up with friends, go to the gym and spend time with her partner.

What is her secret?

Michelle, who is 38 and lives in Coogee, Sydney, has what is known as a portfolio career. Under the banner of her own company, Lantern Partners, she divides her time between corporate consultancy for blue-chip companies and acting as a virtual chief finance officer for media and digital SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and start-ups. She also comments on financial strategy issues for websites such as Flying Solo and mentors business students at the University of Technology, Sydney. Oh, and if that's not enough, she is studying for a master's degree in applied finance in her spare time.

The idea of a portfolio career is nothing new. The term was coined by business guru Charles Handy in the 1980s to describe professionals who did several different jobs at the same time. More recently, portfolio careers have been all the rage in Europe and the US as people desperately scrabble around to find new ways of working in an uncertain economic climate.

Michelle is a chartered accountant by trade and worked for media and digital companies in London and Sydney for several years before deciding to strike out in a new direction in 2011. "I heard the term portfolio career about 10 years ago and it really stuck with me. I always wanted to be self-employed but wanted to use that freedom to do more than one thing as my 'job'," she says. Before she took the plunge, Kvello carefully planned the financial side of her new venture. She worked out that she could just about survive and pay her mortgage for 12 months if she cut down on luxuries such as holidays. Kvello also worked with a branding consultant to consider how to market her multiple roles to potential clients.

"It was probably the most useful thing I did," she says. "It forced me to think about what I wanted to do, what I stood for and how I was going to make this work."

Denise Jepsen, an academic and organisational psychologist from Macquarie University, is a fan of portfolio careers.

"They can be a magical way of transforming your career and perfect for those who enjoy being their own boss," she says. "They might also be a good fit for downsizers and people looking to test out if a new career is for them."

According to Kvello, determination and strong networking skills are the key to succeeding with a portfolio career. "If I'd sat at home waiting for the phone to ring, I'd be back in my old job now," she says. "You've got to put yourself out there and be constantly sourcing your work."

John Buchanan of the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney thinks that portfolio careers are ideal for people such as Kvello who are flexible, organised and able to juggle different tasks.

However, he cautions, they aren't for everyone.

"Some people are resourceful, confident and resilient, but that is a very small proportion of the workforce. Many people need the structures of support that an organisation can give around them."

Buchanan believes that while portfolio careers may flourish in a strong economy, a key issue facing Australians will be how to manage their longer working hours. "What we really need to think about is how many hours people need to work to hold body and soul together."

Kvello says she enjoys the variety that her portfolio career brings her, along with that all-important holy grail of a work-life balance. "I don't find it stressful or tiring - it energises me," she says. "I'm always meeting new people and having exposure to different ideas, and that makes my work better."


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