There are a lot of misconceptions out there about multipotentialites. Today I’d like to address one of the biggest: that multipotentialites can’t stick with anything long enough to build successful careers.
It’s true that multipotentialites sometimes have fleeting interests. We love to explore and we can be passionate about a subject one day and lose interest the next. And yes, multipods need variety in our lives to be happy. But here’s the thing: it’s possible to have variety and financial stability at the same time.
Here are just a few ways that multipotentialites meet our need for variety and make a living at the same time.
1. We build careers in interdisciplinary fields
One way that multipotentialites “stick with it” long enough to thrive in a career is by picking a field that is inherently multifaceted. This means that the job requires you to have an understanding of, and possess skills in, several areas. Multipods with jobs like these often find that no one day looks alike and that they frequently wear different hats and shift between projects.
Being an urban planner requires an understanding of architecture, transportation, environmental issues, agriculture, economics, design, landscape, civil engineering, and law. And to be a good instructional designer, you need to be well-versed in areas like education theory, neuroscience, technology, psychology, storytelling, communications, gamification, visual design, and technical writing. (I would put entrepreneurship in this category by the way. Owning a business involves wearing many hats.)
There are many interdisciplinary fields out there, from bioethics to artificial intelligence to science communications. Multipotentialites often gravitate toward these fields, and yes, we sometimes stick with them for the duration of our careers. We’re able to do this because there’s so much variety baked into the work that we remain fascinated year after year.
2. We choose not to tie our income to our multipotentiality
Some multipotentialites have what Barbara Sher calls a “good enough” job. This is a job that provides you with a stable paycheck. It may not be your DREAM JOB, but you do enjoy it well enough. Most importantly, a good enough job leaves you with enough time and energy to pursue your multiple passions on the side.
I interviewed a 74 year old former surgeon while doing research for my book (surgery is highly specialized and sooooo un-multipotentialite, right?! Hang on a minute…) This person had a long career in medicine, but when he wasn’t at the hospital, he would paint and play music and write. He dabbled in all sorts of artistic media and was very passionate about his creative life outside of work. Best of all, his good enough job allowed him to explore his passions free of financial pressure.
This approach doesn’t work for everybody, but some people find it liberating to explore their interests without having to worry about monetizing them.
3. We have a few well established revenue streams
Some multipods work part-time in a few different industries, and develop careers in each. I know someone who works at a non-profit a few days a week. She does freelance marketing for a handful of clients and she is also paid to do aerial silks performances. She has slowly developed thriving careers in all three areas, and the variety she gets from moving between them keeps things interesting so she can stick with them longterm.
I know someone else who is a college instructor/creative lead at an advertising agency/entrepreneur, and she is doing tremendously well in each area.
4. We reinvent ourselves every few years but we do it with care
It’s true that some multipods start over in a new industry every few years. But most of these phoenix multipotentialites learn to transition smoothly, so as not to risk their financial wellbeing.
Phoenix multipotentialites will often begin exploring a new domain, develop their skills, look for clients and seek out opportunities long before making their transition.
Designing a multipotentialite career can take time and experimentation
Whatever work model you choose, it can take time to get the pieces in place and figure out exactly what areas you would like to build a career (or careerS) in.
Sometimes we explore, drop things, explore some more. Sometimes we never stop moving from one field to the next and we learn how to transition gracefully. Other times, we eventually settle on one or a few fields that provide us with enough variety. But this process can take time and experimentation.
And by the way, specialists do this, too. Even people who devote their lives to a single narrow subject sometimes need to jump around a little before they find their niche.
The safe approach?
The world of work has changed and continues to change. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American changes jobs every 4 years.
In this new, unpredictable and quickly evolving economy, getting comfortable morphing between identities and skills may actually be the safer bet. That is, assuming we learn how to do many things while meeting our financial goals at the same time. But it is possible. Thousands (millions?) of multipotentialites all over the world are crushing it in any and every field imaginable.
*If you’d like more tips on building a multipotentialite friendly career, keep an eye on the blog next week. Some big news is coming out on Tuesday… *wink wink*