I’ve recently had the pleasure of speaking with Helen Wiles who has a dynamic ‘portfolio career’, combining running her own company with her work as a part time lecturer. Helen is a true career stylist, shaping her career around her passions + interests to cleverly monetize a range of skills + experience . Read below to learn more about how Helen has driven her career to work for her + why she is so passionate about raising awareness of the portfolio career as the way forward for women in today’s era (I nod my head in avid agreement at everything she says )
Tell me about your career path to date
I was a Staff Writer and Picture Editor for a large publishing company for the first few years of my career. I then went on to work for a further education agency working on national government-funded projects contributing to and later managing wide range of education, website and publication projects. Now I run my own company which offers writing, editing, research, project management and digital media services. I am also a part-time lecturer teaching English Literature to undergraduates.
You’re a big ambassador of portfolio careers, why is this?
I think the way we think about careers has become outmoded. Human beings have massive capacity to adapt and master a wide range of skills so concentrating on too few areas in our careers can be limiting and unfulfilling. Portfolio careers offer challenge, flexibility and the very real possibility of making the most a wide range of skills and interests while also making a living. Portfolio careers allow people to develop in the areas they are most suited to. The diversity of a portfolio career can also be very motivating and can also insulate people from the recession.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that no day is the same and that I get to work with such a broad range of people. I might be chatting through design ideas with a client one day and planning an interesting way to approach modernist novels with my students the next.
What are the biggest challenges?
Not everyone ‘gets’ the concept of a portfolio career and when you get asked about your career, there’s no straightforward answer anymore!
Can you give us an overview of a typical working week for you?
I’m not sure any week is typical – they are all very varied! There is a certain amount of shape to my week though in that I set aside chunks of my time for the different areas of my work. There is the work itself but also the marketing and admin associated with running your own business. I also have weekly commitments such my business networking meeting on Tuesday and teaching at University of Fridays.
What would be your three top tips for women who want to pursue a portfolio career?
1) Believe in yourself – women have got a reputation for being great multi-taskers for a reason
2) Be proud of your portfolio career and approach it with 100% commitment and professionalism
3) Make sure you make time for loved ones – the best portfolio careers are the ones that make you the best you can be around the people that matter
Helen Wiles (MPhil, MIfL) describes herself as a portfolio careerist. She owns a digital media agency, Zine specialising in branding, websites and search engine optimisation. She also undertakes education, writing, editing and research projects and is a University lecturer. She blogs regularly about what it’s like creating and sustaining a portfolio career.