Portfolio careers for GPs: what, why and how?
Mar 12 2017
Portfolio careers are becoming increasingly popular in all walks of life, as the world of work moves away from the traditional 9-5 job in favour of more flexible and fulfilling work that takes advantage of an individual’s skills and interests. This new way of working - taking on multiple different part-time jobs instead of a single full-time one - is a great option for GPs, who can continue in general practice at the same time as pursuing a range of other interests.
What are the options?
There are more possibilities than you might think for developing a portfolio GP career. Alongside part-time general practice, some GPs choose to go into academia on a part-time basis, teaching the next generation of doctors; others choose to branch out into an area of special interest, or to undertake medical journalism, policy or media work. Research is another option, and working with the forensic or legal professions (for instance, as an expert witness) is yet another. Still others take on charity work, or work with the police, prisons or armed forces; health screening, private or out-of-hours GP services and disability assessments are even more options. On a more adventurous note, some GPs even take on work as an expedition doctor for travel companies or the shipping industry.
The pros and cons of a portfolio career
One of the major advantages of a portfolio career is the fact that it keeps your professional life interesting and engaging. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life; rather than stagnating doing the same full-time job day in, day out, you’re constantly working on something different. Novelty is a great way of keeping your motivation levels high. What’s more, you have greater flexibility as a portfolio GP, which can facilitate a better work-life balance. The unpredictability of a portfolio career is something that a GP - used to dealing with the unpredictable - is arguably well-equipped to deal with.
It may seem that a portfolio career offers less financial security, but in a sense it can offer more, because it spreads your income across multiple streams, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket. It does require greater pension planning, though, as well as meticulous organisation skills to ensure that none of the part-time roles adversely affects the other. Another downside to this way of working is that its disjointedness can translate to feelings of not belonging anywhere, which in turn can lead you to feel isolated and unsupported.
How to make it work
Doctors who already work as locums are likely to find it easier to slide into a portfolio career; locuming is, in a sense, a form of portfolio career, and the organisational skills needed to make a success of a portfolio career will already have been developed through locuming. Aside from strong organisational skills, the best way to become an effective portfolio GP is to go into this type of career with an awareness of your own skills and experience, and of what interests you. Before you start taking on part-time jobs, take stock of your CV and explore the options for your skill set; don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Finally, don’t try to take on too much; the idea is to live a richer professional life, not to burn out from working all hours.