A few years ago, I was contacted by some Canadian researchers who were studying “people with multiple work identities.” They wanted to interview me for their study, in order to learn about my personal experiences as well as what I’ve observed among my multipotentialite community (i.e. you guys).
I jumped at the opportunity. There isn’t much formal research out there about multipotentialites. We don’t need science to validate our existence, but having academic sources to point to always helps. And more importantly, the more multipods are studied, the more we learn about ourselves and how we thrive.
Brianna and her team interviewed me three or four times over the course of the last few years, and I was thrilled to learn that their research was finally published a few weeks ago in a top journal!
“From Synchronizing to Harmonizing: The Process of Authenticating Multiple Work Identities”
The whole article is pretty long—43 pages—but they kindly wrote up an executive summary of their findings for me to share with you guys. I also had to giggle because it begins and ends with a quote by yours truly. But anyway…
Executive Summary for Puttylike – Caza, Moss, & Vough (2017)
The changing nature of the economy and the advent of technology and platforms that enable workers to take on multiple jobs has made it more possible for multipotenialites to be everything they want to be (Wapnick, 2017). Yet, despite the increased frequency with which workers are holding multiple jobs, many still struggle to feel and be seen as authentic when they wear more than one occupational hat.
Because one’s occupation is such a core part of one’s identity, those engaged in multiple jobs may find themselves struggling with authenticity: who am I if I’m all these things at once? How do I develop a sense of coherence when I am being pulled (or have pushed myself) into so many different directions?
We talked to 48 individuals who held between 2-6 jobs simultaneously over a five-year period to get insight into how they developed a sense of authenticity while exploring multiple careers. What we found is that multiple jobholders grew to feel more authentic when they:
1) Developed practices and routines that protected each of their work pursuits. Early on, it was essential for our multiple jobholders to segment and focus on each of their jobs individually. Doing so helped them to establish role legitimacy within each of their jobs separately.
2) Learned to accept all of themselves, especially the paradoxes. Sometimes we feel we have to sacrifice some parts of ourselves in order to pursue others. This may be because certain characteristics or work roles seem paradoxical or even antithetical to others. But, if we step back and think about why we are drawn to each of these jobs, we are likely to find that the roles we are drawn to are actually perfectly shaped puzzle pieces that define our true multi-faceted nature. It may take a while to fully understand the complementary nature of our roles, but the synergy we gain from doing so pays off in dividends.
3) Gave themselves permission to selectively share pieces of themselves. So often we feel pressured to “be our whole selves” to everyone. However, it turns out that sometimes people are not fully ready to see the “whole” you, especially when it can be considered counternormative (like holding more than one job!). However, because the roles we inhabit are true slices of who we are, we can still be authentic if we connect to people within the confines of a single role.
The bottom line is that being authentic does not mean being the same across time and context. People often assume consistency is a marker of authenticity. But, in fact, attempting to be consistent to a single self can actually become a barrier to authenticity. As Wapnick (2017) and James (1980) explains humans, by nature are many things, and working multiple jobs over the course of our careers may bring us closer to understanding and expressing our true selves.
What do you think of these findings? Do they resonate?