Treat Your Career Like a Portfolio, Not a Resume

Linear career paths are a thing of the past.

Anna Burgess Yang
Index
Published in
5 min readMar 19, 2022

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an aerial view of a winding path, pop art
Image created via Midjourney

For generations, careers have been a ladder to climb.

You start at the bottom, grab each rung, and pull yourself up until you reach the top. You might slip and fall back a bit (like a layoff) or skip a few rungs with a promotion. Or maybe you get stuck somewhere in the middle and stay there. But overall, the task was straight and known.

Moreover, your chosen ladder was your chosen ladder. Forever. Forty years of working, going up and down on a single ladder.

Careers aren’t like that anymore. Nor do they always take place in a traditional office or corporate environment. As a result, you should think of your career as a collection of knowledge, experiences, and skills, whether you need to submit that next resume… or strike out on your own.

If you think of your career as a portfolio — a representation of all of your accomplishments — you’ll be better poised to control your career’s direction or handle any curveball thrown your way.

Non-linear careers are the future of work

The career ladder has disappeared in part due to rapidly changing technology. Entire industries have to reinvent themselves. Print journalism, for example, has now shifted to digital media, with journalists managing their own online followings. Software engineers have to keep up with emerging programming languages every few years.

And what happens to those that cannot adapt? They end up falling behind.

The already-in-progress transformations were thrust into overdrive as a result of the pandemic. Millions of people lost their jobs in industries like retail and hospitality; millions more quit their jobs in a phenomenon now known as The Great Resignation. This massive shift has led to the rethinking of work by employees and employers alike.

Because of this, everyone needs to amass a career portfolio. No one, in any industry, should assume that a career ladder will be available. Words like “career pivots” and “upskilling” are now a regular part of the conversation — and you should constantly be preparing for a change.

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Anna Burgess Yang
Index
Writer for

Productivity geek + solopreneur. Niche freelance writer. #5amwritersclub frequent flyer. • https://start.annabyang.com/