Article by Ceri Wheeldon
Many women are working in their 50s and 60s, whether through choice or necessity…and as we live longer and adjust to the increase in state retirement age, the challenges of finding employment and staying employable in midlife and beyond need to be met.
But do we need to look differently at how we think of work? The world of work has become far more flexible…and our approach to work needs to change accordingly. When we left education and looked for our first jobs, 9 to 5 Monday to Friday for a single employer was the norm…but today we may need to rethink our view of employment.
Technology and acceptance of home working have opened countless possibilities for changing the way in which we work.
What is portfolio working?
Portfolio working can be a flexible and rewarding way to extend and expand your career over 50. Instead of working for one employer or client, you work on a part time basis for multiple clients, either offering one set of services, or splitting your skills into several different offerings or service packages. You could have set part-time hours with one employer , while working on a freelance basis for other clients. If you have been made redundant from a permanent role – assess your skillset. Which elements do you excel at? Which are your most marketable skills? Just because your previous employer could not retain you on a permanent basis does not mean that that other companies wouldn’t value your input on a part time or contract basis.
By working for multiple clients you are spreading the risk – and creating greater flexibility and variety in your working life. You have the opportunity to experience different company cultures and perspectives – keeping your skills current and marketable. You determine how much of your time to devote to work – and how much for leisure.
For those who need to combine work with caring responsibilities for family members, portfolio working can offer incredible flexibility.
Building your own portfolio of clients.
Network, network, network.
Whether online or face to face is key. Start with former colleagues – they know your strengths. Let friends and families know what you are doing- have business cards printed with your contact details- and even if you don’t have your own website…yet… at least have the details of your linkedin profile on your card.
Many portfolio workers are offered contracts with former employers – they are able to deliver to their strengths without getting involved in the mundane.
Find the right networking groups that work best for you. Some require an annual membership but do allow you to visit as a guest to ensure that the profile of members is right for you and the services you are able to offer. I’m a fan of the morning coffee groups which are open to all, rather than the more structured networking groups which only allow one member per profession. I have recommended Business Biscotti which has 60 groups in the South East to many people as I have found it great way to make contacts. Connect with local businesses via social media. There are many Facebook ‘group pages’ which encourage local businesses to connect, and twitter is a great way to open a dialogue with other local businesses and contractors.
Many freelance jobs are listed on sites such as www.elance.com or www.peopleperhour.com. You also have the option to list your skills and services to highlight your skills to potential clients.
Keep your online profiles on sites such as Linkedin up to date and join the appropriate professional groups within the site – both permanent and contract staff agencies use Linkedin as a first port of call when looking for individuals with specific skillsets.
Set up a professional looking website. Websites do not need to cost a fortune and can be easily updated if you use a platform such as wordpress. Frequent blog posts positioning you as the ‘go to’ expert’ in your field can really boost your credibility – and provide you with content to share across the various social media sites.
Good time management and personal organisational skills are essential when portfolio working – as is the input of a good accountant to ensure that you are financial affairs are all in order.