Does Having Three Jobs Make Me a Multipotentialite? (hint: Maybe Not)
Photo courtesy of Tim Green.

Does Having Three Jobs Make Me a Multipotentialite? (hint: Maybe Not)

Written by Emilie

Topics: Work

A multipotentialite is someone who has a lot of different jobs, right? Or rather, if we meet someone with multiple jobs, they must be a multipotentialite, yeah?

Well, maybe.

People tend to equate the multipotentialite with one of its sub-categories: the Slash Careerist. They meet someone who juggles four jobs and/or businesses and think: Oh, I get it. THAT is what a multipotentialite is. (Or if they haven’t encountered the word “multipotentialite” before, they might use a less nice term.)

But it’s not necessarily true that a multipotentialite is a Slash Careerist and vice versa, and the confusion between the two ideas is problematic in a few ways.

First, some definitions

Multipotentialite: someone with many interests and creative pursuits.

The Slash Approach: having two or more part-time jobs and/or businesses that you flit between on a regular basis. The Slash Career is also known as a portfolio career. An example would be someone who is a baker/teacher/programmer… See those slashes?

The Slash Approach is just one way to make the Multipotentialite Thing work

Not all multipotentialites use the Slash Approach. In fact, it is just one of the four commonly used work models.

When we think multipotentialite = Slash Careerist, we miss all of the other multipods out there–the teachers, the urban planners, the scientists, and so on–who are doing important work, who may only have one job, and who might be great role models for younger or newly self-identified multipotentialites. Unfortunately, when it comes to these “non-slashing” multipods, their plurality is often invisible to the world.

Not everybody who has multiple jobs is doing it by choice

Many people would much prefer to have a single full-time position, but are unable to find one due to a lack of resources or opportunity.

There is no shame in piecing together multiple part-time jobs to pay the bills (many people, multipods and non-multipods alike need to do this from time to time). But doing it solely because you have to put food on the table, is not the same thing as having a Slash Career. As Penelope Trunk writes,

A portfolio career is not the same thing as holding down three bad jobs and wishing you could figure out what to do with yourself. Rather, it is a scheme you pursue purposefully and positively, as a way to achieve financial or personal goals or a mixture of both.

A career always has an element of financial necessity, but Slash Careerists have a hierarchy of motivations here. Foremost, their many jobs satisfy their love of variety and desire for a range of meaningful work. The fact that their positions come together to meet their financial goals is secondary (but still very key).

Is the Slash Approach right for you?

The Slash Approach isn’t for everyone, and, as we know, it isn’t the only way to have a fulfilling career as a multipotentialite. But is there a way to know whether you might be one of those multipods who would be happiest “purposefully and positively” pursuing a Slash Career?

Here are 4 Clues that a Slash Career might be a good fit for you:

  1. You like alternating frequently between very different subjects. Rather than feeling disjointed, you become energized and have creative breakthroughs when you use radically different parts of your brain and switch between different subjects multiple times over the course of a day or week.
  2. You often find yourself fascinated by specialized or niche topics. Sometimes delving deeply into one niche topic can feel limiting to a multipotentialite, but delving into three? That might feel just right. And your particular interests? If they tend to be really narrow and specific.
  3. You don’t have any great desire to combine your passions. You’re happy keeping your projects separate, and you aren’t itching to have a single multifaceted job or business.
  4. You place great value on freedom and flexibility. You really like having control over who you work for and how you spend your time. You might even dislike hierarchical power structures quite a bit, and have a hard time working in corporate settings.

To Sum It Up…

Not every multipotentialite is a Slash Careerist. Not every person who has multiple jobs is a Slash Careerist either. Slash Careerists are multipotentialites who get the variety, meaning, and money they need by intentionally pursuing multiple part-time jobs or running multiple businesses. Intentionality is key.

Slashing isn’t for everybody, but some multipods absolutely adore the work model. It’s dynamic, and it provides a great deal of fun, flexibility and freedom.

Your Turn

Do you use the Slash Approach? If so, what do you love about it? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

***

Want to design your own Slash Career? Be sure to check out my new book, How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up.

There’s a whole chapter in it devoted to the Slash Approach (actually each of the four work models has its own chapter). It’s packed full of examples of real multipotentialites who are kicking butt professionally and loving their work, plus exercises to help you establish your own Slash Career.

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites build lives and careers around ALL their interests. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist carpenter. Learn more about Emilie here.

13 Comments

  1. Chris H says:

    No…And even if you’ve got one job, you can still be an multipod,

    I’ve got one job – in eLearning – but I’ve got a number of roles within that job (instructional designer, programming, content writing, editing). That – together with the different fields I get to create content on and the interesting conversations I haven with colleagues and clients – all helps to satisfy [much of] my multipod needs.

    • Emilie says:

      That’s awesome, Chris. “Group hug” jobs are the best.

    • Elena says:

      Yup, same here! I work in the field of dance, being a choreographer, performer, teacher, producer, designer etc., and I also work with languages as a translator, proofreader, teacher.
      I usually use the slash approach speaking of my roles within those 2 main fields of work. Somehow I don’t think of them as separate jobs.

      PS. Love the term – “group hug” jobs!;) That’s perfect!

  2. Anna Weisend says:

    I am slash careerist when I am transitioning from one career to another. I am self-employed and it is one way that I can do it and be financially responsible. I am 50 years old and I am in the middle of my third career transition. I am currently a pastry chef/pastry instructor/writer. I am trying to ease out of the pastry chef so I can just concentrate on teaching and writing. As much as I would like to drop the actual chef part- it is paying the bills until I can build enough income from the other two.

    It does make it really hard to answer the question “What do you do for a living?”

    (P.S. Cannot wait for the book!!)

    • Emilie says:

      I hear that! Figuring out how to introduce yourself is a whooole other challenge. If you haven’t already seen this, I posted an excerpt from the book on Facebook last week. I go into some different ways to answer the question, “So, what do you do?”. Might provide some food for thought. :)

  3. Greg says:

    This is such a timely article! I have a day job as an engineering project manager, am a musician, and have started a dietary supplement company with my brother, who is a nutritional chemist. Trying to figure things out! There are different things that I get out of each pursuit and so many cross functional benefits of learning. As each pursuit grows more serious however, I have found it difficult to scale without delegation and systems. My timelines are also dragging a bit…but the overall system works and is something that I’ve encouraged others, especially recent grads, to consider. For example I met a recording studio engineer through my day job who has helped pave the way for music recording then took a leave of absence from my career to start the supplement company and went back to the job after 6 months. I think a big part of it is just finding ways to make it all work! Ive failed at times, but certainly want to encourage others to try. Thanks for the article Emile!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Greg,

      That’s awesome! And you’re right, as things progress, there’s definitely a need for some careful planning/systems/delegation. That happens when any business/project takes off, but it’s a lot more intense if it happens to three different projects at once. I bet you’ll find your footing. :)

  4. Maryske says:

    You know, Emilie, if you keep telling us what is in your book in your posts here, what reason will we have left to buy it? ;-D

    Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that a slash career might be just the way to go for me. I can answer a resounding *yes* to all four of your clues.
    Now to figure out how to work that way in practice…

    • Emilie says:

      I’ve always erred on the side of giving more away. It’s counterintuitive, but it actually increases sales. Because if the stuff you’re giving away for free is THIS AWESOME, people can’t even imagine how baller your paid content is. (And it is. Baller. ;)

      And for all of these reasons., too.

      Oh and as for this: “Now to figure out how to work that way in practice…”, Check out all of the lessons and exercises in Chapter 5! They will help with that.

      (See what I mean? :)

      • Maryske says:

        LOL! Well, that’s another reason then to look forward to getting it!

        And thanks for that link. For someone like me, who totally lacks the entrepeneurial gene, that was a real eye-opener. Will be interesting to see how that new knowledge affects me in practice. ;-)

  5. Rolands says:

    I wanted to write a *term* but then noticed it was a less nice term. Lol!
    How does Multipotentialite progress in a career? I think due to their rather varied interests, it is hard to expect to progress too far in a single line of job yes?

    • Emilie says:

      From what I’ve observed, that doesn’t seem to be true. A lot of multipotentialites pick multifaceted careers where they get to do a lot of different things at work. Or they have enough other projects in their life, that they never get bored. It’s not so hard to go deep in an area, if that area is interdisciplinary or if it isn’t the only thing you’re doing.

  6. Keri M. says:

    Yes, I definitely am a Slash Careerist. My jobs come in fits and bursts, and just when I’m getting bored or burned out with one of them, along comes an unrelated project in one of my other fields and I’m off and running! I’m at my best at the beginning of a project, so that’s a good thing!

    -Multipotentialite
    real estate, education, creative arts, permaculture

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