We’re taught to follow the specialist life plan by picking one thing to be: a schoolteacher, a midwife, a politician perhaps.
If we think about it, we can see that when someone decides to become one of these things, often they’re deciding what they want to do, and how they want to do it. For example, an aspiring teacher decides to educate children by explaining concepts in a classroom. An aspiring midwife chooses to deliver babies by working in a hospital.
We’ve got the what, and we’ve got the how, but, if you’ve heard of Simon Sinek, you’ll know that it’s the Why that’s most important.
The teacher who wants to pass on her love of learning to the next generation is more likely to have a fulfilling career than her colleague who picked teaching because he enjoyed giving presentations. And the politician who’s determined to achieve equality will be more passionate about his job than his rival who simply enjoys debating.
To pick a career then, it makes more sense focus on the Why than the What or the How.
Multipotentialites can use this approach to explore lots of different interests as part of one career path.
In December, Josh stressed the importance of expressing an idea before you choose a medium. And Emilie talks about finding your overarching theme—the idea that runs through or links everything you’re interested in—to build a business.
“Usually your overarching theme is very close to you. It’s less about a discrete topic, and more like a personal drive or value that you hold.”
Now why don’t we take that theme—that personal drive or value, that Why —and, instead of just applying it to individual projects or self-employment, apply it to more conventional employment? Rather than building a career around a What or a How, why not build one around a Why?
I found one overarching theme that links all of my career interests.
Once I hit the you’ve-got-to-be-realistic-about-your-career-now age, I decided I wanted to be a translator. I had my what—translating texts from another language into English—, and I had my how—working at a computer in an office, ideally one day for the European Union. I didn’t have a why.
You can probably guess that I didn’t become a translator. My frustration at not seeing any point to the texts I was translating during an internship, and the realization that my dream job basically meant copying debates about tomato sizes from Slovenian to English quickly put an end to that plan.
But, recently, I’ve started to think again about my career path, by looking at jobs I’ve enjoyed in the past, jobs I’m genuinely passionate about, and jobs that I don’t know much about but which appeal to me:
- LGBT activist – encouraging people to accept other people the way they are
- Author – writing young adult novels about accepting yourself, and going after the life you want
- Teaching assistant – helping children find those ‘aha’ moments so that they believe in themselves
- Personal trainer – helping people to become the way they want to be, and proud of themselves
- Blogger – inspiring young people to live on purpose by working out who they are, and what they want
There’s a pretty obvious theme there of helping (young) people to feel good about themselves, and to improve their lives and self-esteem.
Once I noticed that theme—that Why—my jumbled collection of seemingly unrelated career interests made sense. I was also able to think of several more jobs that might give me the opportunity to help others feel good about themselves (beautician, counselor, child minder, tutor), which I think I’d enjoy.
Making your career about your Why—for example, helping others to feel good about themselves, or a How—for example, being a personal trainer, means that you can keep on achieving something you’re passionate about, whilst not getting fed up of doing the same things in the same industry forever. Once you’ve satisfied your interest in personal training, you can become a beautician, or start working on your novel.
Obviously there are drawbacks to hopping from one industry to another, but if you’re passionate enough about your Why, and enthusiastic enough about your latest interest, I think this approach has the potential to give rise to some very exciting careers.
What’s your Why? What draws you to your various pursuits?