Telling Your Boss about Your Multipotentiality…
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Telling Your Boss about Your Multipotentiality…

Written by Emilie

Topics: Work

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Jen Knapp.

I’ve been working in an unchallenging, one dimensional office job for 2.5 years – something my fellow Polymaths would find agonizing (and trust me, I do!).

Recently, out of the blue, my boss – who’s based in Boston, and rarely visits my Colorado office – popped in my office and asked a rather deep question.

“So…” he said, as he was simultaneously turning to leave, “are you happy here…with your job?”.  Not once in 2.5 years has he broached a topic like this to me.  But being a native from Boston myself, I tend to be brutally honest.  After all, it’s not like I haven’t tried to have the conversation about my eagerness for greater responsibility.

After my inside voice struggled with how best to respond before he made a mad dash for the hallway, it dawned on me – were we experiencing some sort of breakthrough in our stodgy relationship?  I’d waited years to hear some waning interest in me, and here it was!?

“That…” I replied, “calls for a whole different conversation; one that isn’t handled on-the-fly.” Yes, this was a back-handed reminder to him that we rarely, if ever have 1:1 time, AND that I took his question seriously.

I say seriously because I earn a ridiculously high salary, and don’t even come close to earning it. Primarily, I push a beverage cart from meeting to meeting, and I find this simply absurd, college degree notwithstanding.  And yes, most “other” people would love to wrangle a cush job like this – anyone, that is, who isn’t a multipotentialite.

So in his slow, Irish-dad manner, he reached for my office door and closed it, then proceeded to sit down with a strained look on his face in an effort to interpret what my reply meant.

“Okay… So what kind of conversation is that?” he said to me.

I proceeded to elaborate on how I felt I had actually been doing more of a disservice to our company; how little I was being asked to contribute, and what a shame it was that my ideas hadn’t been taken more seriously.

I then segued into sharing the progress of a technology initiative I spearheaded which he had no knowledge of.  I’d not only thought of and authored  the proposal behind it, received top brass approval to move it forward, and most recently had received final nods by legions of our IT titans to progress toward its implementation stage.

Me! I did this. Not our CTO whose pay grade is hired to configure these ideas.  Little ol’ me!

No IT education – just common sense.

My conversation with him gushed a while longer until I heard myself justifying my talent, my intelligence, and yes, I went there, my multipotentiality!

It was here that I noticed his predictable eye glaze, but I stayed the course in an effort to make our talk a win-win, and how more vital I could become to the company, given my varied skill sets and innovative ideas.

It happens that I’m a “chick” in an overtly male-dominated environment, where unless you run naked through our lobby, no one will give you the time of day, least of all listen to your ideas.

So my hope is this: that my story imparts the wisdom that no one should ever have to explain how talented they are. And while I’m unclear if my fleeting talk was truly any different – my boss heard what he wanted (well, maybe not about my multipotentiality).  But my takeaway was his words.   He said where ever I wanted to take my job, or any other job for that matter, he would back me 100%.

I realize that bringing up the topic of multipotentiality at work is a risk, however, I feel passionate  about reminding those around us to embrace our multi-committed contributions, and to welcome our differences. Because from my perspective, only good can come from what we have to offer.

Your Turn

So all you multis out there, have you ever succumbed to validating your multipotentiality? Or are you still waiting for the right opportunity?

9180c4225bcba55531b7082411c91b42Jen Knapp
I am a Multipotentialite residing just outside of Denver, CO. Given my multi-committed personality, I try to concentrate my free time devoted to an active fitness regimen, studying physiology and nutrition, being a gearhead, and freelance writing. And when I’m not working out, studying, writing or drooling over cars, my time is spent spoiling my Tabby cat, Prada and Blue Heeler, Callie. This isn’t a comprehensive bio. That would be pure insanity for a Multipotentialite to pull off. :).

12 Comments

  1. Jen! What a truly inspiring story. It was certainly a thrilling read. I wanted to know what happened next. I completely understand where you are- trying to explain to a boss about your multipotentiality. Man, of man, I’ve been there too. I’m at a point in life now where I do talk about it much more openly, but the validating part- it will never end- people will always be confused about it. Which is why I don’t believe we need validation from others! Just getting things done in itself is validation. Your side IT project you spearheaded was the perfect example. Yes, we’ve got alot to show for our multi-talents- not just interests but things we’ve accomplished! That just blows people away. I think you were very brave in having this conversation with your boss. Good for you for showing off a little bit, talking about your project, and getting a 100% support from him. This is no small feat.

    • Jen says:

      Hi Jesicka, thank you-thank you for such kind words! Yes, a little brazen I’ll admit, but as we mature in life, the fear of holding back wanes, and as long as respect is paramount, your true voice will emerge – and I certainly found mine!
      The follow up from my convo with boss-man morphed into a tailored meeting with HR. They agreed to send me various job descriptions, from which I am to extract as many skill sets that best represent or interest me, and (hopefully) a job designed just for me can be created. I’m a huge believer in asking for what you want or need, and given that most corporate environments are not yet equipped to intelligently accommodate multi-passionate individuals, I feel it’s my job to teach them how best to work with me.
      Thank you again for commenting. I hope to contribute more articles in the months to come!
      Jen

  2. Jordan Queior says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience! Good for you for asserting the strengths of multipotentiality, and speaking to your diverse skill set as an overlooked asset. Work is changing, and execs need to know what motivates their employees to stay. As switching jobs becomes more common and expected, it’s increasingly important to understand what motivates employees, because high turnover gets expensive. I’m so glad it worked out for you. I’ve never gained support for the contributions I can make despite 1:1 meetings. I’d usually end up wearing “too many hats,” and not feeling like I was being compensated or promoted appropriately. The more people that paint multipotentiality in a positive light as you have, the better the chance bosses and others will understand how to leverage, and value, our gift.

    • Jen says:

      Hi Jordan and thanks so much for your positive comments!
      It’s like anything new, right? Fresh perspectives always sting at first. Fortunately the rate at which the World embraces newly minted, unconventional ideas today is remarkable.
      So, the more positive reinforcement that is communicated by multis in an effort to educate others, the sooner people will be to acknowledge, and then embrace our uniqueness.
      Thanks again.

  3. Question is, How to sell all you can do and all you have done to people without confusing and/or overwhelming them?

    • Jen says:

      Hey there, Dragonfuit Mag!
      First, I’d say this depends upon to whom/what you’re directing your answer. For instance, when I interviewed for a high level Exec Assistant role, one of the questions I was asked was, ‘tell me about how you think?” Talk about a loaded question… but I actually knew the answer: ‘I compartmentalize everything, allowing me to address each task in the order in which ‘I place’ its significance, allowing me to accommodate so many things.” (and yes I got the job!)
      Also, one of the best lessons I taught myself was simply to begin pausing, taking a few seconds before answering someone’s question, especially our dreaded ‘so what do you do’ question. This not only 1) helps you gain control over how you answer the question, 2) allows you time to formulate and better tailor your response, but more importantly, 3) it can actually prevent you from including extraneous verbiage that might otherwise turn away your listener.
      Pausing does take a little practice because we’ve become conditioned to answering others immediately upon being asked. Just remember: you’re not being rude by taking some time – you simply want to present the best ‘you’ that you possibly can!
      I hope this helps steer you in the right direction.

  4. Ali says:

    Jen, what a great story, good for you!

    I am having major issues explaining how I work to my boss at the moment, and I’m not feeling as optimistic about it as I wish I was. I have been in my current job for just under 4 years, in the same office for the last 3, which is actually a very long time for me. Over the past year or so I’ve been feeling restless and a little bored with the work I’ve been doing, so I’ve been putting my hand up as often as possible to work on extra projects, do training courses and to work in other departments temporarily. I’ve also started studying in my spare time. I was called in to my boss’s office a little while ago, where he advised me that he felt I was too unfocussed and “too ambitious for someone at my level and experience” and was generally very patronising. He advised me to stop studying and volunteering for things, and to “focus on the job that I have” which as you might imagine is the last thing a multipotentialite wants to hear. It also makes very little sense to me, as to the best of my knowledge everyone is happy with the amount and standard of the work that I’m doing. Anyway, my theory is that he is doing this because he needs staff to fill positions like mine, so he is quite literally trying to hold me back. The irony is that the more support I am able to get to pursue other interests and opportunities to grow at the same time as doing this job, the more likely I am to stay there. As it is at the moment I am not feeling great about being there at all. If I could find a way to get him to understand this, it would help a lot.

    Anyway, to finish on a more positive note, I loved hearing your story and hearing that you got such a positive outcome. I am so happy to have found this website and community, I’ll keep reading and looking for motivation and inspiration with what to do next.

    • Jen says:

      Hi Ali, thank you – I am glad my story resonated with you.
      I am sorry, though, to hear about your current office dynamic – I actually experienced that very same scenario, and totally understand all the emotion and confusion that comes with that.
      The first positive I took away was that you have amassed substantial credibility from your long-term commitments, both to your company and your current department – that is a rarity today so definitely be proud of that, and pull it from your ‘dedicated employee’ arsenal as much as you need to!
      I was unable, though, to detect if you are studying while at work, or on your own time. Or, do you squeeze it in during breaks and lunch, etc? I ask because if it does occur during core business hours, then they can clamp down on you for that. I’d be interested to hear more clearly how you are navigating this…
      Also, and this is a big one: if you’re soliciting for the extra projects and volunteer efforts without your boss’s knowledge or sign off ahead of time – this is what’s likely causing their gruffness. Even though it feels like you’re a kid asking to go play outside, we have to do it – below is a scenario example of how to go about this.
      And a note to my millennials out there: when managers/higher ups single you out, and generalize you with ANY type of adjective, i.e., too anything…unfocused, ambitious – I implore you to always ask them for examples, or ask pinpointed questions in return like, ‘so what you’re telling me is that I’m making too many mistakes – is that correct?’. If ‘we’ don’t politely challenge our superiors, they realize we’re intimidated, and will continue to prod us into submission.
      Ali, I suspect that you are the same crackerjack business support person that I was, so yes – your boss will be selfish and not want to share you – it’s actually a backhanded compliment that simultaneously sucks, and doesn’t make sense.
      One cool thing I taught myself early on was this: teach yourself to out-think your boss – make everything a win-win so they can’t find anything wrong with: your needs, your ambition – whatever. If your pitch doesn’t work the 1st time, try again a month or so later – being bold and daring will help you build resilience – one of the best qualities anyone can possess.
      Approach Example:’Hey ‘boss’, I wanted to run this by you…Marketing is looking for some help with shipping out their storyboards and I would love to help. What I’d like to do is come in ahead of my shift tomorrow, say 6am, and give them a hand. How would you feel about that?
      You’re asking for their permission, AND telling them what you want – all in the same sentence. This gets easier the more times you craft it because you make it your own, and tailor it according to your listener.
      I hope this adds a little more umph! to your drive. In no way let anyone – boss or otherwise – discourage your ambition, creative ideas, etc. I often wish I could fight everyone’s battles for them, I’ve gotten so good at this stuff!
      And lastly, I know you may not want to consider this step, but it’s also okay to walk away from that job and company. If what you’re experiencing does not improve within a short amount of time, you are working for the wrong company. I say this because I’ve been there.
      Be well!
      Jen

  5. Brandon says:

    Jen,
    Loved reading your story. I find myself in a similar situation: I live, in Littleton, CO, and I just started a new job with a state-run organization that almost seems to encourage, becoming a cog in the machine at best, and at worst being lazy. This is not my style at all and I’m trying to find avenues to express my desire to excel to my superiors.

    My question is this: I’ve only lived in CO coming up on 4 years. Where do you connect with other people with “driven-ness”? Community is a huge part of how I grow but I don’t have one for this facet of my life. But none of my friends are interested and I won’t find it through work…. Any thoughts?

    • Napster says:

      Hey Brandon, having worked in the defense/govt sector for many years, I know all too well that you’re working in an environment that places far too many confines for how we’re wired.
      While also being in Colorado, my experience here has unfortunately taught me that the kind of ‘driven-ness’ I once thrived upon as an East Coaster simply does not exist in, nor compare to this geographic area; this was difficult to embrace.
      What I did do, however, was begin consulting for as many newer start-up-like companies across the U.S. as I could, volunteering to blog, web design, provide marketing/branding/tagline ideas, etc – some turned in to paid gigs and I wasn’t even after that! I now work in every time zone. This is how I ‘fill my soul’ and keep my creative juices and drive alive at the same time.
      So, try soliciting some cool, newer companies that you could actually see yourself working for. Also, everyone is looking for bloggers. Take a look at the link below – it points you to a variety of blogging genres (that pay for your work!):
      http://www.businessinsider.com/10-places-to-find-blogging-gigs-that-pay-2012-12
      I hope I’ve provided some direction for you. Best of luck! :)
      Jen

  6. Liz says:

    As a fellow Bostoner and multipotentialite – good job! And I have to say, it also felt slightly relieving to hear you say you’ve been in a job for 2.5 years and earn a great salary. I experience that same “agony” and sometimes feel guilty about it – I should feel blessed, right? So many of the mutli-potentialites I see out there are the success stories who have transitioned to this self-made life of awesomeness, and I”m still in the formative stage. So, even though you’ve got your side gigs (its what I’m working on!), thanks for making me feel a bit better about things for a minute.

    • Napster says:

      Hey Liz, from one chowderhead to another, I’m so glad you are working on undertaking some peripheral work! I have found such comfort from all of my side jobs; it’s that work that has ultimately ‘saved’ me, kept me sane, and provided the needed outlet I’d been seeking all along.
      Being Puttylike is all about experimenting with where we feel our passion is needed most, and then simply adding branches along the way.
      I wish you much success in navigating your passion paths.
      Jen

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