The internet is a strange place. The onset of mass anonymous communication seems to have allowed humanity to let out all of its inner weirdness at once. Which makes it mildly surprising that the internet is also filled with great career advice.
However, most of the career advice out there is aimed at non-multipotentialites, so it mostly centers around old ideas such as the “career ladder” of ever-deepening specialization.
I think it’s fair to say that at Puttylike we often counteract this by focusing on the other side of the modern work story: non-traditional careers, people who juggle multiple income streams, those who hop from career to career, retraining, creating your own niche… all that good stuff.
But multipods, by our very nature, are a diverse group, and many multipotentialites are perfectly happy in more traditional careers, as you can see from many of the comments on this article.
And so today I’d like to draw what lessons we can from examples of happy multipods working with the more traditional career model.
Hold on. What Even is Happiness Anyway?!
Hm. The nature of happiness is probably a bit too big to tackle in a single post, so let’s assume that one necessary condition for multipod happiness is variety.
The assumption that multipods prefer to use a wide variety of skills and interests, or, at least, to constantly be stretched somehow, seems to be a likely reason as to why many of us are drawn to non-traditional careers.
These unusual career options may be the obvious place to find constant variety, challenge, and stretching, but they’re far from the only place. Inside the world of traditional careers, we have two main options for multipod happiness.
Option One: Make the Job Multipod-Friendly
In recent years, there’s been an increasing focus on workplaces becoming more agile (for example, check out this report on agile working in the UK, although be warned that for some reason they decided to add highly annoying page-turning sound effects!).
And if any group is ready to take advantage of this trend towards greater flexibility, it’s surely multipods.
Even large companies are starting to recognize the benefits of encouraging workers to pick up a broader range of skills and take on a wider range of roles. Instead of performing the same tasks every day, workers might spend a day writing a report, another day meeting a client, another day tinkering with client-facing copy, another day designing a product… To a certain kind of multipod, this could be work heaven!
Unfortunately, bosses are likely to be the constraint in making your role more multi-faceted. One obvious disadvantage of a traditional career is being constrained by the decisions of others. You may have to sell the idea of role-broadening to your boss.
If you’re lucky, your boss will intuitively understand that a happier employee (and a more knowledgeable employee with a broader skill set) would be a greater asset to the company, and they’ll be delighted to work with you in adding variety and challenge to your role. But there are always those bosses who prefer straight, well-defined lines, in which case you might be out of luck.
Of course, there may be other reasons for the lack flexibility at your job. Some roles simply don’t make sense if you broaden them. I imagine it might be frowned upon if a surgeon decided they really couldn’t be happy unless their love for composing Chinese poetry was indulged on the operating table.
In cases like these, there’s always option two…
Option Two: Specialize at Work, “Multipotential-ize” Elsewhere
We all know that work isn’t everything, and it certainly doesn’t define us.
Many happy multipods in traditional careers say it doesn’t matter that their job isn’t a full expression of their multipotentiality. They’ve found other places in their life to meet those needs.
This approach requires a broader mindset; you’ll have to look at your life as a whole instead of as a series of parts.
It may be stating the obvious that not every moment of our lives needs to be in service of every desire – or even could be – but I often need to be reminded of this. Sometimes spending even an hour doing something I don’t like makes my brain freak out: “OH GOD! I’M WASTING MY LIFE.”
But reminding myself to adopt this broader attitude helps to reduce this fear and allows me to compartmentalize. Sometimes it’s necessary to work on just one interest now to free myself up to play with other interests later.
(Of course, if you enjoy literally nothing about your job, this is a totally different calculation! I’m assuming your job can engage at least one of your interests, though of course sometimes circumstances can make even that impossible for a time.)
Compartmentalizing our work from our other interests is a completely valid route to happiness.
Secret Option Three: Change Your Use of Time
I know I claimed there were only two options, but there’s a hybrid option that may work for some: having a traditional career for a non-traditional amount of time.
Sweden recently passed a law mandating a six-hour work day, giving everyone much more time to balance their interests. While not all countries are so employee-friendly, it may be possible to ask to switch to a four-day week, or for some unusual hours.
If you’ve never considered this approach, it may be worth seeing whether this option could work for you.
It Comes Down to Attitude
The common factor among happy multipotentialites working traditional jobs appears to be their attitude. They are able to find (some) enjoyment in their work, while also scheduling time outside of that for personal interests, all while creating opportunities both at home and at work to indulge in as many passions as possible.
If you have a traditional career, whether out of either love or necessity, you’re very welcome in the Puttylike community. We’d love to hear more of your stories and to hear how we can help you live your multipotentialite life to the fullest.
Are you a multipod in a traditional career? How do you express your multipotentiality and find happiness?
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he puts his time into standup comedy, computer programming, public speaking and other things from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you found him at www.walkingoncustard.com and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.