A Portable Career
Do What You Enjoy While Living Where You Want
From Guest Author Megan Fitzgerald
A portable career is a career that you can take with you, wherever you go. It can gracefully move with you to a new city or new country - be it for several months or several years.
A portable career gives you more freedom to choose where you want to live and work, and helps you maintain a professional identity rather than starting over professionally every time you move somewhere new. It gives you more flexibility to organize your work to support your lifestyle, and can actually help you work less so you can enjoy life more. The portable career is rooted in the idea that you can live where you want and do what you enjoy at the same time.
Portable Career Options
Historically, there have been few careers that were both truly portable and provided a livable income. These careers have included teaching, nursing, childcare or administrative support. However, with today's advances in technology - such as voice over IP programs like Skype, high speed internet connections, and the ability to setup up businesses and market your services online relatively easily - the list of portable career options is now much longer. Today you can be an accountant, a translator, a writer or editor, a graphic or web designer, an IT service provider, an event planner, a coach, or a virtual assistant - all from the comfort of wherever you call home.
You can also sell products or services online, or use your subject matter expertise as a consultant and market your services globally no matter where you are in the world.
Given all these options, more people are starting portable careers and embracing the idea of mobile lifestyle. With over 200 million people living in countries other than their own (that's 3% of the world population) we can see that expatriate and mobile lifestyles are on the rise. With everything going global, technology constantly evolving and the economy forcing people to look outside of their immediate location for job opportunities, I predict the number of "portable careerists" will increase tremendously over the next 5 years.
Portable vs. Non-Portable Careers
But what does a portable career look like? Let's take a closer look.
All fulfilling careers - portable or not - are comprised of certain things. They are an expression of a person's purpose, values and passions. They leverage a person's unique qualities and strengths, as well as their knowledge, skills and experience that they enjoy using. And most importantly, they support a person's chosen lifestyle.
That said, portable careers differ from non-portable careers in a several respects:
- Portable careers often involve services or skill sets that are generally in high demand in many parts of the world. Careers in education and training, healthcare and technology are often portable because the demand for services usually outweighs the local supply of talent. And employers are often willing to pay for state licensing or work permit documentation in order to hire highly skilled workers they need and cannot find locally.
- Portable careers are not primarily driven by credentials or degrees that are jurisdiction or location specific. Jobs that require certain qualifications or credentials that are not accepted in many locations can make pursuing a mobile career quite difficult. Law degrees and medical degrees are examples of credentials that are not readily accepted everywhere. If you are interested in a portable career and are planning on pursuing education or a certification, be sure to check how universally accepted that credential is before moving forward.
- Even though with some portable careers a person may decide to only work locally, in general portable careers to do not limit you to your local market. In other words, portable careers can involve providing services virtually or selling products online. You can be a coach or consultant that provides local in-person coaching or consulting, but also provide your services via phone or video chat globally. You might package your subject matter expertise in the form of an e-book, audio or video product and sell that globally as well. In fact, you may be running a business online that does not market to anyone at all in your local market.
- Portable careers usually involve regular engagement with technology and online business and communication tools, particularly if you are providing services virtually or creating and selling products online. By technology what I mean is everything from email, online networks and voice over IP programs to communicate with colleagues, collaborators, potential employers and clients worldwide, to graphic or web design programs, blogging tools, and online payment programs to market yourself and sell your products or services.
In many cases it is a person's ability to use technology which is the deciding factor in whether or not a job can be considered portable. It is essential that the portable careerist be able to use online communication and business tools to not only build their global network, market themselves and their product or services, but in some cases to get their job done. For this reason the portable careerist usually needs to be a bit tech saavy to be successful. Fortunately there are more and more online tools being developed every day that even a person with the most basic skills can master with a bit of time and practice.
- Having the ability to speak another language can make many careers very portable. By being able to do a job, provide service or market a product in another language, a person has immediate access to new opportunities and markets closed to others that don't have those language skills. If a person's language skills are strong enough, they could also be in a position to provide translation or interpretation services. A combination of strong language skills and a subject matter expertise or product in high demand can set you up for portable career success.
That said, not speaking more than one language does not have to be a problem. As long as you have the ability to reach and communicate with a viable target market that can generate enough opportunities or business to meet your income or revenue needs, you can still have a successful portable career.
- And lastly, portable careers generally do not involve owning and managing brick and mortar businesses. Running a bed and breakfast, for example, is a popular career or business choice for people wanting to live overseas. But the process of setting up that kind of business and the difficulties of selling or moving it make it less than ideal for the person interested in a mobile lifestyle.
As you can see, with the diversity of job options and technology and tools available today, providing a very specific description of what a portable career looks like is not an easy task. Ultimately, it is the combination of a person's skills, strengths, experience, ability to communicate and network effectively, comfort with technology and willingness to try new things that will dictate whether or not they can build a successful portable career. But as markets become more global and technology evolves, we are sure to see more people pursuing portable careers to make their dream of an international, mobile lifestyle a reality.