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  • Writer's pictureMichael Williams

How To Exploit Your Transferable Skills: A Portfolio Career in Action


A few years ago, the concept of a portfolio career was seen as being somewhat unconventional. However, today, increasing numbers of senior professionals are finding themselves attracted to this liberating way of working


Lauryn Williams with American flag around her shoulders


Why is a "Portfolio Career" growing in popularity?


The rise of the gig economy, a desire for work-life balance and skill development, dissatisfaction with traditional jobs, and the accessibility of online tools are all fuelling the popularity of portfolio careers in 2024. This approach lets people build a diverse range of experiences and skills by working on project-based contracts, catering to the changing work landscape that values flexibility and continuous learning. Working this way is both satisfying and rewarding, especially in a world where the definition of success has shifted to "living the perfect work/life balance."



My journey to becoming a "Portfolio Career" professional



Elton John with the Watford FC team


I always wanted to be a professional footballer. From the age of 5 to 18, if you had asked me the question, "what will you be doing for work when you are older?", my answer would have been consistent. A professional footballer.


Those that know me well will have heard at least one of the experiences from the 10 years

where I so very nearly achieved that goal. From the time I played in my first proper match for my school football team when I was 9, to when I reluctantly left Watford F.C.  following a serious illness in my late teens.


Watford F.C. were in their Elton John ownership powerhouse football days where they were the top of what is now called the Premier League, and as you can imagine, this was a very exciting time in my life where my dream was actually becoming a reality. And then, almost overnight, I had to accept my playing days at a top level were over before they had even started and I was absolutely devastated. The effect of this, coupled with the difficult recovery from illness took me to what I can only describe as the very lowest ebb.  


Fortunately, I quickly realised I had leadership, tactical, organisational and other soft skills that were readily transferable. I picked myself up and charged full speed at my next challenge. I have since gone on to enjoy a successful and fulfilling Portfolio Career in Change, Transformation, Projects and Programmes for over 35 years.  


For more years than I can remember, I’ve been referred to as a "portfolio career expert."  Highlighting my expertise in delivering short (normally 6 months - 2 years, sometimes shorter) assignments of major change, challenging programmes and projects across diverse businesses. Delivering success for big names, too many to mention here, but including Orange, Three, Vodafone, Nat West, Visa Europe and FedEx TNT.    


I have, and still enjoy, some of my greatest highs when the team and business I’m working with achieve what has been described by others as unachievable. I know it might sound cheesy, but my passion for my work is why I get up in the morning.  


I appreciate that many may not find my story as interesting or fun to hear as life stories of others, so for this blog, I set off to research if anyone more famous than me had an inspiring story where they had pivoted their transferable skills to great effect by moving from one type of work to the next. I found quite a few, but the one that resonated with me the most was the story of Lauryn Williams, a summer and winter Olympics gold medallist.


There are some great lessons to be learned from Lauryn’s story.  


Lauryn Williams: A Portfolio Career


Lauryn Williams' journey from Basketball player to Bobsled Champion via Track and Field exemplifies how moving from one assignment (sport) to another can lead to remarkable achievements.



Lauryn Williams holding a baton
  • Basketball Beginnings: Williams was a talented basketball player in the WNBA for a few seasons. But she craved greater success.


  • Transition to Track and Field: Recognising the need for a change, Williams decided to leverage her athletic talents in a different direction – track and field, finding immense success, winning three Olympic gold medals in the 100 metres and 200 metres sprints.


  • Unexpected Opportunity: After dominating the track world, Williams received an offer to join the US Bobsled team as a brakeman.


  • Bobsled Stardom: Despite never having been in a bobsled before, Williams' athleticism and dedication translated well. Remarkably, she teamed up with pilot Shauna Rohbock to win the gold medal in the 2012 Winter Olympics.



The Portfolio Career Analogy:


Lauryn Williams' career path is a perfect example of a portfolio career in action.



Lauryn Williams pushing a bobsled
  • She didn't limit herself to one sport or role (basketball player).


  • She capitalised on her transferable skills (athleticism, dedication) to excel in different contexts (track and field, bobsled).


  • She embraced new opportunities, even outside her comfort zone (bobsled).



The Key Takeaway:


Just like Williams, individuals with a portfolio career mindset can leverage their skills and experience across diverse projects and industries. This approach allows for continuous learning, growth, and ultimately, the potential for success in unexpected ways.




Lauryn Williams running the relay

Translating this to the business world: The Power of Portfolio Careers


The modern way of working empowers individuals to take control of their careers. It allows them to:


  • Work on the best projects: Choose exciting and challenging projects that align with their skills and interests.


  • Greater work-life balance: Enjoy flexibility in scheduling and work hours, promoting a healthy balance.


  • Continuous learning and growth: Gain exposure to diverse projects and industries, expanding their skillset.



  • Build a unique career path: Craft a portfolio career, working on a variety of projects and collaborating with different teams.


Imagine working on cutting-edge projects, choosing your schedule, and constantly learning. This is the reality for individuals embracing the modern way of working.


A True Partnership for Success


The modern way of working isn't just about transactions. It's about fostering genuine true partnerships between people and businesses where the support and resources needed for success, combine with expertise and passion to great effect.


The result? 


A dynamic environment where both businesses and individuals thrive. Businesses get exceptional results with the "perfect fit" talent, while individuals achieve a fulfilling career journey and the work-life balance they’ve always wanted.


Modern working needs to be transformed so that we are all much happier on a daily basis, as this mindset fuels productivity and supercharges positive transformation and growth for individuals, organisations and economies.


The modern way of working isn't just the future, it's the present. If you are ready to be part of the win-win revolution visit www.eighteights.com to find out more.

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