I’ve been working on a blog post about how to write effective resumes as a multipotentialite. With so many skills and backgrounds you could highlight, how should you choose what to feature on your resume and what to leave out? It’s a question that confounds many a multipod, and one that deserves some attention.
While working on this post, I considered some suggestions put forward by our community. I thought about my own experiences as a job applicant and as a college advisor and professor. I also decided to interview some experts. So far I’ve interviewed two wonderful deans from Duke University.
In one of these interviews, I got much more than I bargained for. The advice I was given gave me an “aha!” moment. I wanted to share that with you, particularly as it segues beautifully into the subject of résumés. So this is sort of a prequel of a blog post, if such a thing exists, to the post on résumés, which will soon follow.
An Interview with an Academic Advisor
I was lucky enough to be able to speak to Dean Milton Blackmon from the Academic Advising Center at Duke University. Having previously worked for him, I knew he was a brilliant man.
I wasn’t aware until our interview, however, that he’s a wonderful multipod himself, and that one of his areas of specialization is adult education. Nor did I know that he’d have words of wisdom to share that would affect me personally.
One of the main points Dean Blackmon made during our conversation was that, before deciding on a major, a career, or what to put on your resume, it helps to understand yourself.
In Poor Richard’s Almanack, Benjamin Franklin wrote: “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know oneself.” But knowing yourself is what you’ll have to do if you want a successful and happy career.
Dean Blackmon encourages students to major in whatever interests them, pointing out that college majors don’t determine our careers. He says, for instance, that with a degree from a liberal arts program, you can do anything with any major. And while studying whatever strikes your fancy, you get to learn more about yourself and your preferences.
This is good news for those of us with many interests, because many programs in the US require only ten out of the 34 courses you take to be in the subject you major in (I would love to hear whether things are similar in other parts of the world; feel free to share in the comments). With a system like this, there are plenty of opportunities to explore other interests alongside the one you select as your major.
The next part of our interview seemed like a cartoon moment, when a lightbulb goes on over someone’s head – in this case, mine.
A Recipe for Career Happiness
Dean Blackmon pointed out that only about 30% of people are happy in their careers. Another point he made was that you can either try different careers and learn by trial and error, or you can know up front that you are well-matched with a career. Keep in mind that this does not restrict you to a single career; rather, it helps you see what career(s) might be most enjoyable and fulfilling.
Your interests aren’t the only thing you should take into account when choosing a career. Beyond knowing your interests, Dean Blackmon suggested four areas for self-examination. Focusing on these four areas will help you understand yourself and make better choices when looking at career options:
He emphasized that, unlike in choosing a major (where interest is arguably the most important thing to consider), these other three factors are very important in the choice of a career or careers. Why is this?
Well, if you know you’re an introvert, you’ll be able to rule out careers that involve a lot of human interaction, such as being a classroom teacher. If you know you’re big on telling the truth, and that you could never defend a guilty person, you could rule out becoming a defense attorney. And if you’ve recognized that writing is an area of weakness for you, you’ll know not to consider becoming a translator.
A Simple Method
Dean Blackmon’s method for getting to know yourself ahead of choosing a career path is the simplest and yet most profound method I’ve ever encountered. It’s also very well suited to those of us who have many interests.
This formula hit home for me because it considers more than just interests and skills. In my own career, I’ve tended to focus only on these last two. I’ve worked both at the intersections of my various interests and in individual fields but, although I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my various jobs, I have yet to find a job that completely works for me.
After speaking to Dean Blackmon, I feel as if I now know the path to follow to find the perfect career or combination of careers for me. I hope his words of wisdom are useful for you too.
In the sequel to this post, which will be on resume writing, we’ll discuss how to pull these areas together.
To be Continued . . .
Do you find this career recipe helpful? Which of Dean Blackmon’s four areas have you neglected to consider?
Dr. Brenda Scott is a fine art photographer, writer, and cellist. Originally trained as a musician and organologist, she has worked as a curator of a small musical instrument museum and her Stagville: Black & White exhibit has been displayed at the North Carolina Museum of History and is currently on tour. She enjoys teaching and holds degrees from the University of Oxford, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Auburn University, and the Academy of Art University. View her work at brendascottarts.com or follow her on Twitter @brendascottarts.