Five tips on portfolio careers for NHS staff

A portfolio career is where you choose to work in a range of different roles, using different skills, and it can often include doing pro bono or voluntary work. I write about my five tips and also give some specific advice for NHS Staff.

  1. You don’t necessarily need to change your job to move to a portfolio way of working

Rather than taking quite a drastic move and quitting your job, it might be possible to talk to your manager to ask them if you can take on different roles within your job.

Another possibility might be to go on a secondment for a set time. You’d need to argue about how much you’d learn and be able to bring back to the team. It might be helpful if you can link the skills you’ll pick up during the secondment to departmental objectives.

  1. The importance of happenstance

Being alert for opportunities as they occur, can make a difference. There is a great value in networking. Sometimes it won’t lead anywhere, but many of the people find that a chance meeting with a peer can open their eyes to a role that they hadn’t known about or yet considered.

  1. You’ll reap rewards if you push yourself outside of your comfort zone

Taking a risk and taking on a role that will push you is crucial. Trying something new and different may prove difficult to begin with, but it will often open more doors to further opportunities. Take the plunge and do it, you’re unlikely to regret it.

  1. Being self-aware and knowing what’s important to you.

Can you take the Carlberg test – i.e. does your new portfolio role refresh other parts of you that other roles couldn’t do? If so, you’re onto a winner. Here’s what I’ve heard people say about portfolio careers.

‘Variety ++++


Development of skills

New communities

Satisfying and fun

Lots of opportunities’

  1. Once in a portfolio career, it’s really important to manage boundaries and this means saying ‘no’ sometimes.

If you are taking on more than one role, you’ll need to have boundaries and manage your time really well. Being strict about the time you’ve set aside to one role, and not trying to doing everything you’ve been asked to do is important. Here’s what’s been said about portfolio careers:

‘Need to plan

Can be fragmented


Starting from scratch

Can be stressful keeping it together’.

So how easy is it to start a portfolio career?

A starting point for many would be to find a part time job, that will give you some security, whilst you fit in another type of work around this. NHS Jobs is a good place to begin and by searching for ‘part time’ along with the type of work you want, this brings up the results of jobs that are either advertising part time roles or are willing to accept part time applications.

For some, you might be able to think about finding work you can do on top of your full time role. This might be the case, especially if you are working three 12 hour shifts per week. If you have the spare time, you might want to do something different with the rest of your week – so it could be a chance to try out a portfolio career.

For doctors in training who want to work part time, you’d need to put in a request via your local HEE office/deanery to see if you can work less than full time.

So what kind of work could you do?

Alternatives are:

  • setting up your own private practice
  • ad hoc work, either via the NHS or through a private business. For example, you may be able to ask whether your Trust has any project work that you might be able to do on a freelance basis
  • working for a charity that can use your professional expertise
  • running your own business (it could be something completely unrelated to your own role)
  • going down an academic route, so maintaining a clinical career alongside this

The rewards:

These include:

  • variety
  • chance to learn new skills
  • opportunity to meet a greater range of people
  • ability, to some extent, to choose your own hours
  • a way to combine several interests

Other factors to consider:

  • less security if you are working part time (also this will affect your pension)
  • you’ll need to be organised and plan what you’re doing
  • you’ll have to be flexible in order to balance your various roles, especially if working to deadlines
  • you may need to network a lot, especially if you are running your own business

I hope you’ve found this blog useful. You might be interested in my blog about five tips to prepare you for interview.

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