Are career paths a thing of the past?

Rita Oliveira
3 min readFeb 19, 2022

Twenty years ago, people would join a company with a long term commitment. They would aim to climb up the company ladder, seeking promotions achieved not only by effort, but also tenure. There seemed to be a clear career path ahead, and you knew what to expect.

Today, not only are we expected to study for longer periods of time, but we’re also expected to develop different skills (with hobbies and volunteering opportunities) that are valued in the workplace. The job market has also evolved: nowadays, we face a dynamic work environment, where transferrable skills matter and work-life balance is a topic of concern.

This provides us opportunity to put our several interests into play, to switch between industries, and even between roles.

Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

There is no longer only one ladder to climb to grow your career; there are different roads you can follow.

This article by Harvard Business Review advocates we can stop using the phrase “career path”, replacing it by the expression “career portfolio”. In a so-called career portfolio, you can find your different interests and skills, and how they pour into different roles you can take.

These skills or interests are not limited to what you can do or find in your current workplace; they are the product of all your interests — from hobbies to side projects.

Why can a career portfolio be important?

By designing a career portfolio, featuring all of your interests and activities besides your daily role, you’ll have a clear insight on what skills you’re developing, which ones are transferrable, and in which areas you are truly excelling.

Have you ever felt “stuck” or unhappy about your job? As if your life only begins after 6 PM, when you can finally dive deeper into your true interests in hobbies or side projects?

Yup, we’ve all been there — wondering why we’re feeling that way, what we can do to feel better while we’re working, or even what path to take next. Having a clear idea of what makes us happy and what we’re capable of doing can help us figuring this out.

Maybe you’ll find out your true calling is not punching numbers in a Data Entry job (even if you love the company you’re working with), but building a mobile app similar to the one you’re building with some friends on Saturdays. You can find common skills in both roles, such as attention to detail, persistence, and logic thinking. Alongside with some specific training, this can help you pursue a new role as a Mobile Developer.

Regardless of the role you’re in, or what your interests are, you can begin designing your very own career portfolio following these steps:

  1. Write a list of your 3 major interests (for example, meeting new people, singing, programming, writing, etc);
  2. In front of each one of them, write how you’re putting it into practice (for example, singing in your free time; writing for LinkedIn as a part of your job), and what skills did they allow you to develop (for example, communication skills, English-writing skills, perseverance);
  3. Write down what your current role is, along with your daily tasks, which ones you enjoy the most, and the skills you’re putting into practice. For example, I’m in Human Resources, working mostly with recruitment. This involves conducting several interviews, sourcing for candidates through LinkedIn, and communicating with different stakeholders. I definitely enjoy conducting interviews, as it allows me to meet and communicate with new people everyday. Some of the skills I’ve developed in this role include resilience, communication, and time management.
  4. Now that you’ve got it all written, try and highlight the common skills and interests between your current role and your hobbies or side projects.

This will help you visualize your very own set of skills. Each career portfolio is meant to be unique, as it’s the reflection of each individual and their own experiences.

A solid career portfolio can also help you understand a bit better which roads you can take to grow in your career. Sometimes, following “the ladder” in a company or role might bring you joy and satisfaction; other times, it’s a role shift that can help you feel fulfilled with your career.

Figuring this out by ourselves is tough — but it helps to have a clear idea of what we like to do, and of our abilities!



Rita Oliveira

HR professional, Psychologist, and writer. Also a musician in training. Seeking to communicate and learn about Human interaction — especially in the workplace.