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?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Emilie 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.