No more pie in the sky – portfolio careers are best served flexible

Option 1: One finger in a standard, but nevertheless lovely, home-cooked apple pie. Familiar, warm and you know what you’re getting.

Option 2: One finger in the apple pie, another in the dreamy soft-piped caramel tart and hang on, what about that magnificent blueberry swirl cheesecake over there? Spoilt for choice with new, exciting textures and with flavours that compliment each other, but also test and evolve your palette.

While the latter may be messy, good things come from getting your hands dirty. From building skills at speed to personal fulfilment, working on multiple ventures or taking a sideways rather than upward step in your career can ensure happy, well-rounded employees. And no more so has this been true for one of our ‘jugglers’ – Charles Whittle – who took the plunge and began working flexibly so he could have a successful portfolio career that would fit around his family life.

So, we rolled up our sleeves and and sat down with him to talk work, personal projects and what comes next.

  • Name: Charles Whittle
  • Age: 35
  • Occupation: Startup Consultant (finance, operations and scalability)

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m from the North East England and went to the University of Aberdeen where studied philosophy before completing an MA in Finance Management at Durham University.

I began my career working in various dive bars and selling shoes in Next before working as an English teacher in Japan. On my return I moved to London and took up my first financial role and qualified as an accountant.

Outside of work, I have two children aged 5 and 1 and an ability to make origami.

When did you begin working flexibly?

In July 2017

What type of flexible working do you engage in?

I have a portfolio career. Until very recently, I had one regular job and a few other, side projects. Now I work four days a week for one company on-site, while pursuing my own startup project at home.

What does flexible working allow you to do?

The benefits are twofold; I’m able to be more involved in my children’s lives – attend parents’ evenings and do drop-offs/pick-ups – plus, I have time to work on own HR automation project.

Tell us more about your portfolio career – what do you get from it on a personal level?

Home life-wise, I get more time to be involved with the child care; job-wise, it keeps things new and interesting. I like to be challenged and I find that having several projects on the go at any one time keeps me engaged, which can sometimes be harder in normal, full-time jobs.

What skills have you learned and how does this feed back into your work?

Having the time to work on something I love makes me happier and therefore more motivated generally. Handling people is the biggest part of my job: it demands greater organisation as you need to know what the requirements are for each week and portfolio-working honed those skills. It’s also been a huge learning curve. As a result of seeing they way things worked at one company, I redesigned the entire resource block chain in my project for the better.

How do you think the companies you work / have worked for have benefited from this?

Because I focus on startups, the challenges are similar but timings differ so one informs the other and I know what works elsewhere. Having a broader range of experience due to managing several projects at once, I am able to identify and address issues quicker than perhaps I would be had I taken a more linear career path.

Your career involves strategic juggling: what, in your opinion, can companies do better to accommodate this?

They need to treat flexible and part-time employees the same as they would full-time staff and if necessary, change company culture to reflect this.

Decision-making also needs to be transparent. It’s difficult when decisions have been made without others knowing, so there needs to be straightforward procedures, clear policies and open communication lines so everyone knows who is responsible for deciding what and when.

Would you return to a more traditional working pattern?

Yes I would if was the right thing. But the threshold for what the ‘right thing’ is has gone up considerably! And I obviously hope that my own startup will take off so I won’t have to. 

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Part of the new ‘Getting to know you’ series – Follow us to be kept up-to-date on the next segment and other articles from Juggle Jobs

Juggle Jobs is a digital platform that connects businesses with high-quality vetted professionals looking to work flexibly. If you want more information about how we can help you, please email us at info@jugglejobs.co.uk

Juggle Jobs is listed as one of Recruiter.com’s “Top 10 HR Tech Start-Ups”: Top 10 HR Tech Start-Ups (Recruiter.com)