It happened without forethought or planning: an inexplicable transition from full-time work in a primary care setting to life as a portfolio optometrist in less than three years.
It is a career-building approach that mirrors my behaviour at the all-you-can-eat buffet; a restrained nibble of a crispy duck pancake at the start, before the subconscious takes hold and I emerge like a stealth ninja staking out the chocolate fountain with the morsels of several main courses left in my wake.
In truth, despite working primarily in an independent practice for nearly three decades, I have always dabbled with additional roles throughout my career, undertaking sessional hospital clinics or undergraduate teaching.
However, it was in 2008 that the seeds were unwittingly sown for a different career path when I embarked upon my first (yes, first) doctorate and got an appetite for research, coupled with a return to teaching.
“Despite working primarily in an independent practice for nearly three decades, I have always dabbled with additional roles throughout my career”
Then, out of the blue an opportunity to join the OT team as clinical editor arrived with impeccable timing, offering the chance to make use of the skills I’d acquired in a research setting while maintaining a strong foothold in practice. A couple a years later, and a second role at the AOP as head of education landed at my feet. At around the same time, I could not resist the urge to join the research fray once again and began my second doctorate, while continuing with regular clinics in practice.
If I’m being honest, trying to juggle five distinct roles can be difficult at times with the need to meet competing deadlines and appease multiple line managers. During one particular pinch-point, I recall missing a whole series of I’m a celebrity – time you just can’t get back.
Dogs and tricksA few years into my accidental portfolio career, I have learned how to manage my time a lot better – for instance, ramping up the research effort when teaching commitments ebb away over the summer. Despite the challenges, the way in which these complementary roles overlap and interweave brings a diversity to my working life that is wholly fulfilling.
In order to meet the needs of a growing and ageing population along with developments in diagnostic technologies, it is likely that the prospect for practitioners to develop portfolio careers will increase in the coming years. My top three tips for those considering the diversification route, in no particular order, are: Do it. Do it. Just, do it.
A portfolio career is not for the faint-hearted but it certainly helps to mitigate for the tedium of twirling cross-cyls. As I begin to enter the last couple of decades of my working life and the casket beckons in the far distance, it is hard to speculate what adventures lie ahead. I for one will be embracing any serendipitous opportunities that come my way.