Crafting a lifestyle not a career: Jake’s story

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Jake Boomhauer has always had a portfolio career, without even realising it, with his main gig working in the public sector and side hustles as a NED and mentor. Now as he makes huge strides into the startup world, advising platforms and communities focused on social good and founding his own community interest company, he reminds himself of exactly why he started doing what he’s doing; to help others. 

Helping people is the golden thread that weaves throughout Jake’s portfolio career. Contributing to something greater, learning from inspiring people and feeling energised are three goals that he strives for with any project he takes on, as he builds a purpose-driven lifestyle. 

Through his side hustles as a mentor to secondary school children, a board member at a housing association and through his community interest company which supports underrepresented individuals, Jake has dedicated his time to supporting others and motivating them to thrive within their communities. 

We sat down with Jake to find out how he finds the right balance between his main gig and (many!) side hustles, and why he believes in crafting a lifestyle and not a career. 

Hi Jake, it’s great to be speaking with you today! I’d love to start off by getting you to introduce yourself! Could you tell us a little bit about your background and what you do?

Hi I’m Jake Boomhauer. I’ve actually had a portfolio career for the last few years and it’s something I’ve always been interested in, even without knowing it ever really existed, so it’s been nice over the last few years being able to give it a name. I have a full-time job at the Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities which has been a really interesting job that actually relates to a lot of my side hustles. 

The side hustle I’ve had the longest is a Non-Executive Director role I hold at a large housing association, which I’ve been doing for about six years. On top of that I’ve also recently taken up a role as an advisor to the impact tech platform Goodsted, which is all about collaborating for social and environmental impact, which has been another really interesting role. 

There are other strands to my portfolio career too. In May I set-up and co-founded a company called Pushing Your Potential CIC, which as the name suggests is a community interest company. Pushing Your Potential CIC is there to support underrepresented individuals and help them thrive in communities, through helping them find work and providing them with different sorts of training to help these individuals learn new skills. We’ve already won a few contracts in the South East of England which is really exciting, considering we only officially incorporated back in May 2022. 

Afonso Pereira @ The Portfolio Collective

Another thing I do as part of my portfolio career is mentoring. I’ve been working with a great company called M10 Networking, which is a mentorship programme based around the Gatsby Benchmark principles and is all about providing school children with exposure to business people, the working world and preparing them for life outside of school. I’ve been doing this over the last year and it’s been such a rewarding programme to be a part of. 

Wow, you’ve got quite a lot going on! It’s really inspiring to see how the common thread running through your whole portfolio career is that you enjoy helping others…

Yeah you’re absolutely right, the thread is continuous. The position I was talking about at Goodsted – I actually got after meeting the founder Selin during a TPC networking event and chatting about my experience around the social housing sector, local authorities and central government. It’s funny, if you’d asked me even six months ago that I would be helping to advise an impact tech platform, I’d have said “probably not!”, but actually the work I’ve been doing over the last six or seven years has fed into that role perfectly. 

That’s interesting. I guess even though what you were doing before wasn’t in the tech space, you still have those transferable skills that are helpful to a startup like Goodsted. 

Yeah exactly! That’s it. And I’m looking to keep building a portfolio career around my day job. They work well together and there’s a lot of harmonisation between all of my roles, which I will continue to craft. And as you mentioned there’s a golden thread throughout my portfolio career which is helping people and communities, which ultimately all my positions are focused on. 

That’s great. As you mentioned you started your own company in May. What’s been the most enjoyable part about that?

I think the most enjoyable part of forming your own company is really getting into the weeds. It’s definitely been a learning process, and although we only incorporated in May, in many ways the work that all three of the founders have been doing has been growing for decades. So, as I said it’s great getting into the weeds and then seeing the real world outcomes. In the world created by Covid, it’s quite easy to hide behind the screen, but we have been getting out there and we’ve already got some wins. We’re already empowering people, getting people up the next rung of the ladder and helping them to achieve what they want to achieve. So that’s the most enjoyable part. It’s been really really fun. What’s important to remember is that it’s not about ego. It’s not about being a director for me, it’s simply about real world outcomes. 

It must be great to know that you’re making a real difference. 

Absolutely, particularly at a time now where we’ve got a cost of living crisis. People out there are really suffering. I always remind myself that, if you help five people and then they go on to help five people and then they help another five people, that the potential and impact really is exponential. So I think that’s really important to remember, especially in the sort of times we’re living in at the moment. 

That’s such an important point. I guess the flip side of what I’ve previously asked would be, what would you say has been your biggest struggle? What’s something that’s surprised you about the portfolio you are building? 

The hardest part has been the balancing act and finding harmonisation between all my roles. There is an opportunity for all of my roles to grow and for my impact on the world to grow. One of the beauties of having a portfolio career is that it does keep things fresh, but it can be difficult to get the balance right. 

I think that’s where things like The Portfolio Collective come in. The TPC team and community have all been excellent – as sounding boards, mentors and also critical friends. It’s difficult because all my roles could potentially be main gigs, but I’d like to keep them as a portfolio career as much as possible because I feel like I get to contribute the most that way. It’s sometimes pretty difficult to get that harmonisation and note that it is a harmonisation rather than a balance, because nothing is ever truly balanced. 

I’m sure people who are at the beginning of their portfolio career would want to know, how do you find the right kind of harmonising?

There was a great quote I heard from a podcast with Derek Sivers that said, when you’re considering doing something it’s either a hell yes or a no. And I think that as a principle is really beautiful isn’t it? It’s like “am I really excited by this work? Is this work going to give me energy? Or is it going to take energy from me?”  And actually if it’s the right work it gives me energy, which is a really good litmus test. That definitely helps with finding the right kind of harmonisation, if I’m dreading meetings and if I’m not really willing to put in the work, I know it’s probably not the right fit. 

For someone like myself it does work for me that all my projects are somewhat interconnected. At its core it’s really about doing work that interests and energises me as opposed to work that drains me. 

As you’ve been saying, your career has developed a lot recently. Do you have an idea of where you’d like your career to go in the next year or so? 

Ultimately I’m trying to craft a lifestyle for myself here, I’m not necessarily looking to craft a career so to speak. I would like to continue working on projects that I enjoy and where I know I create real life impact. I love working in the community sector, so I’d obviously like to continue doing that. But that can take so many forms over the next year, which is actually one of the things that I think is so exciting. A year ago my career was looking quite different and I would hope that if I was to redo this interview in a year’s time it would look very different again, which is so exciting. 

You’re right, that is really exciting! My final question would be, what bit of advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a portfolio career?

I have a few bits of advice! Firstly, do the work which really excites you. And secondly, in those really early days, I think it’s important to do a little extra than what is necessary and also be a little bit kinder than you need to be. I think those early days are really foundational. You need to give a little more when you’re initially building something. Some of the best opportunities I’ve had are sprouts that have grown from doing pro-bono work. Those can be excellent starting points and are great for building your network and getting some nice recommendations and referrals in there. This goes back to the first point that when you do work that actually excites you, you won’t do the bare minimum, you’ll give a little extra and that will serve you well.

Inspired by Jake’s story? So are we! It’s such an amazing example of how focusing on your core values and passions can lead to a truly fulfilling career. Jake’s career is the perfect example of how being dedicated, driven and fitting side hustles around your main gig can actually give you more energy, drive and purpose than just sticking with a 9-5. 

If you’d like to meet more inspiring professionals who are forging their own career paths, then join our community and start engaging with our members. You never know what you might discover about yourself or your potential.

Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!

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