Most people struggle at certain points in their lives, with being asked what they want to do or what they want to be. As teenagers, we get used to fending off questions from well-meaning friends and family about the career we want to pursue.
But for multipotentialites, the struggle doesn’t stop once we get our first jobs. Time and time again, strangers, friends, and colleagues tilt their heads to one side, look at us, confused, and ask us once again to explain what exactly it is that we do.
I’m traveling around Europe at the moment, seeing new places and visiting old friends. It’s exciting seeing how everyone has and hasn’t changed over the years, but I keep finding myself dreading that “so what do you do these days?” question.
How do I explain to them that, since I last saw them, I’ve completed my first degree in French, German, and Slovenian, completed a second degree in sociolinguistics, worked in event management, been a seminar teacher, helped my dad start a weight management business, interned as an education worker, worked as a support worker, freelanced as an illustrator, and who knows what else?
Oh, and that I now do none of those things and instead work as a content coordinator and run my own website, helping shy girls become confident? How do I explain all of that without sounding like I’ve lost it?
The solution: come out about being a multipotentialite
While it is important to be able to summarize what you do with an elevator pitch, sometimes that’s not enough. If you haven’t yet figured out your overarching theme, or if you’re just spinning a lot more plates than normal, it might be the time to come out about your multipotentiality.
If you can get your confused relative to understand that you like trying different things and that having lots of projects on the go at the same time is who you are, maybe you won’t have to justify your love of crocheting or your newfound sushi-making addiction. And maybe next time, instead of asking what you do, the person you come out to might ask what you’re working on.
So, how do you explain that you’re a multipotentialite? We’ve had many discussions about this in our global community of multipotentialites, the Puttytribe. Here are the best tips we came up with.
9 Ways to explain your multipotentiality to non-multipotentialites
1. Spread the word
If we want our multipotentiality to be accepted and celebrated, we mustn’t hide it. Those of us who are confident in the value of pluralism must make the decision to help others see that the world needs generalists as well as specialists.
We can do this by being open about our multiple interests when we meet new people, in interviews, and in everyday conversation. Instead of keeping quiet about our latest projects and obsessions, we can share them. Online, we can share Puttylike and other pro-multipotentialite articles to our friends, families, and colleagues, using social media.
2. Pick your words carefully
Jon Knepper uses language to reveal his multipotentiality:
“I also think people get an idea that my interests range/I do a lot based on the terminology I use – I’m always exploring, dabbling, etc.” – Jonathon Knepper
By using verbs such as “exploring”, “dabbling”, and “dipping into”, and the continuous present tense (“I am studying hieroglyphics” rather than “I study hieroglyphics”), we can imply that our interests are temporary rather than permanent parts of who we are.
Emma McCreary suggests using a label you’re comfortable with. For her, that’s “deep generalist”. For you it might be “multipotentialite”, “generalist”, “renaissance person”, “polymath”, or “scanner”. Ensure you pick one which you feel conveys who you are and which you think your non-multipotentialite friend will understand.
3. Tailor your approach
As a multipotentialite, you know that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to work. Try to relate your interests to those of the person you’re talking to or focus on a benefit of multipotentiality which you know the person you’re talking to will appreciate.
For example, if you were being interviewed for a position at a small business, you could explain that being interested in many different topics means you’d be happy to take on tasks outside of your main area of focus. If you were being interviewed for a position in a large organization, you might stress that your dabbling in design means you’ll be better able to communicate with the design department.
4. Explain the benefits
Just as businesses should promote the benefits rather than the features of their products (“With this course, you’ll learn how to relax” rather than “With this course, you’ll get an audiobook and access to a private forum”), multipotentialites should explain why multipotentiality is good rather than just what it is.
To get you started, here are some articles on the benefits of multipotentiality:
- The 7 Multipotentialite Super Powers
- Why Multipotentialites are Attractive
- Why the Multipotentialite Mindset Makes Sense from an Economics and Philosophy Perspective
- How To Fight Aging By Being a Multipotentialite
5. Use concrete examples
Illustrate your explanation with examples and stories to make multipotentiality less abstract. Talk about the time you put on a French play and the week you did nothing but decorate cupcakes.
6. Be confident
“Enthusiasm and confidence and having a completely doubt-free relationship with your own multipotentiality goes a long way.” – Emma McCreary
If you value multipotentiality, you’ll be in a better position to persuade others that it’s a positive trait and that society needs both specialists and generalists. Don’t apologize for your multipotentiality; be proud of it.
7. Use your overarching theme
Explain the patterns and themes in your multipotentiality instead of on the individual interests you have. Rather than talk about your love of rock climbing, website design, and orienteering, talk about how you love to challenge yourself.
8. Don’t be negative about non-multipotentialites
If multipotentialites are to be accepted, we need to be making friends, not enemies. Recognize that society needs both generalists and specialists, and that neither type of person is better than the other. Make sure your specialist friends feel appreciated and don’t think you’re boasting.
9. Pick your friends
If your attempts to explain multipotentiality are consistently met with scornful looks and misunderstandings, it may be that you need to surround yourself with more open and understanding people. Obviously this approach is not a replacement for education, but if you’re craving acceptance, this might be a healthy option for you.
Hopefully these pointers have given you some ideas on how you might broach the topic of multipotentiality in future. Thanks to all of the great puttypeeps in the Tribe who contributed to the discussion.
How do you explain multipotentiality? Do you have any tricks that you’d like to share?