Portfolio Careers

The definition of portfolio career has changed in recent years, partly because of lockdown and societal changes, people don’t necessarily want a single job, they want a variety of activities that could include running their own business, working for lots of different companies, working for themselves and looking after their family and their interests.

During lockdown people have been thinking about portfolio careers a lot more, and some people include a seasonal element in their portfolio, it is not so much a mix of part-time jobs but a mix of lots of elements that suit the individual.

Younger workers coming in the labour market expect to work in the gig economy.

NED roles:

The traditional NED board role for an established company includes a strong core of risk and compliance. For other companies the NED role is more advisory, sharing learning, acting as a sounding board, a broader range of duties. If you are looking for a NED role you need to think about how you want to spend your time, there is more choice now.

People don’t always realise there are lots of ways of being a ned which don’t fit the traditional profile, as a governor of a school or chair of the local committee, all have obligations to ensure the organization is well structured and has the right strategy and complies with fiduciary requirements. Where is gets more interesting if you are involved in an advisory capacity on marketing, strategy and business development.

The best route to get your first NED role is to think carefully about what role will suit you best, a FTSE company, a trustee role or an advisory role. Learning about what it takes to be a NED, the responsibilities involved then use headhunters and your network to find a role.

Nigel thinks it is smart to start planning well before you want to start looking for such a role. Ideally use your network to move into an advisory type role while you are still in your executive role. In terms of the channels you use that will depend on the role you see but, again, networking is what counts.

On LinkedIn you can search for NEDs in your network, touch base with them so you can gather information about the role and responsibilities.

Anyone can be a NED, opportunities have opened up in recent years. Organizations how have much greater needs to ensure that their board is representative and relevant to their customer base, for instance. Diversity, in particular, is an issue for the boardroom at the moment.

The voice of the employee is becoming more important in the boardroom and that is an area where HR can contribute. Digital marketing is another area of expertise that may be of interest in the boardroom in the future. Younger people are being to NED and trustee roles to meet the needs of the modern boardroom.

Look at your strengths and what you enjoy, also look at what you are prepared to invest in the organization, do you want to take a stake in a smaller, growing business?

Paula says she learned to think differently, being a NED is completely different from an executive role. Being a NED is ‘hands off, noses in’, you are there to sniff around, ensure everything is okay and sniff out opportunities. You need to add value and bring new insight to the role.

You will need a CV that fit you for an NED role. Very short, speaking to who you are and what you bring to a business, a CV that catches the attention of the recruiter. It is a very competitive area, even for unpaid roles.

Nigel says he gets something different from every aspect of his portfolio and has expanded his horizons because he now has more freedom.

Sarah enjoys the team work involved in her charity trustee role.

Trevor asked about misconception about the role of the NED. It used to a bit old boy’s network, very cosy and backslapping but that is different now, which makes it a much better role.

The amount of work varies depending on the formality of the role, however many days you spend in the boardroom you will spend at least as much time preparing for that day. Particularly for FTSE companies the workload is much heavier these days.

You need to discuss and suggest rather than take control. In an advisory role it is about influencing rather than executive control, so is about lobbying, challenging, coaching and coaxing.

Our top tips:

Nigel – plan early, starting thinking about NED roles 5 to 7 years before your executive career ends.

Paula – follow your passion, if you are really keen on what the organization does then you will be able to so much more value. Don’t go into something that doesn’t excite, it will be hard work. Follow your passion, add value and enjoy!


10Eighty is a boutique, specialist provider of career coaching based in the UK. All of our clients are unique, and so our services are tailored to their individual needs. 10Eighty helps individuals to maximise their potential and helps organisations to harness that potential. We are experts in developing leadership capability and helping organisations increase employee engagement. Our service offerings include: Career Transition/Outplacement, Executive Coaching, Career Management, Leadership and Management Development and Team Effectiveness

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