In her memoir, Becoming (2018), Michele Obama reminds us that the question we often ask children "What do you want to be when you grow up?" can be limiting. She writes: "As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that's the end." (Preface). As a woman who has had many roles in her life, including lawyer, vice president of a hospital, director of a non-profit and First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama is an example of how a successful career does not necessarily equal "linear", and that following your many talents and interests can lead to a varied and exciting career.
Not following a single career trajectory is a topic close to my heart, as I have enjoyed learning and working as a teacher, researcher, consultant, recruiter and now life coach and Reiki practitioner. Yet, I admit that whenever I changed jobs, I would get a little bit embarrassed when I shared the news with others. I felt I was presenting myself as inconsistent or unreliable, even lacking ambition by not sticking to one single career path and aim for the most senior levels. That is the traditional path, which many of my peers followed. In fact, even though I was experienced enough to do great work and train others, whenever I was given the opportunity to plan my career in one single direction, I would start to feel constricted. It felt like I would be tying myself down to one area of expertise and this is something I could not commit to. This lack of commitment to one career path was a result of my feeling that none of them would be fulfilling enough to give up all my other interests.
Fortunately, the view of a successful career path as a linear, singular one, is starting to change. There are now plenty of resources to support a non-traditional career path. One of my favorites, “How to Be Everything” by Emilie Wapnick (2017), summarizes it in this way:
"Having a lot of different interests, projects and curiosities doesn't make you a 'jack-of-all-trades, master of none.' Your endless curiosity doesn't mean you are broken or flaky. What you are is a multipotentialite: someone with many interests and creative pursuits. And that is actually your biggest strength." (Cover copy)
Of course, dedicating your life to becoming an expert in something is an amazing and valuable career choice. As a society, it has brought us many incredible discoveries and benefits. However, this path is not for everyone and people who follow different interests throughout their careers can also contribute greatly and be successful. People who gain experience in different areas and industries will bring these learnings to their next job, helping to innovate in whatever new role they are in. Wapnick describes multi-potentialites as “creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, who can learn quickly and adapt to fluctuating times and circumstances” (p.31). In fact, if you think of some of the most influential people past and present, many have a multi-hyphened title:
Oprah Winfrey started out as a news anchor and now her LinkedIn profile describes her as CEO, Producer, Publisher and Actress
Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, and engineer who wrote and drew on subjects including geology, anatomy, flight, gravity and optics, masterfully combining art and science
Helen Beatrix Potter was a writer, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist best known for writing children's books featuring animals, such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Are you someone who has many interests but struggles to find a job or career path that combines them?
I have now managed to combine many of my interests in my current work. These include personal development, wellbeing, workshop facilitation, psychology, research, meditation - even art, poetry and dance! However, there are different ways to combine your interests and it doesn't need to be all in one career at the same time.
Some people have different full-time jobs, but one at a time, as I did earlier in my life. Others manage different part-time jobs at once or have a full-time job in one area combined with a “side hustle” on something totally different. Balancing different projects and freelance work is also possible, as well as a variety of businesses.
If you are feeling stifled by you current job because it does not allow you to follow other interests that are just as important to you, how can you begin incorporating one of these interests into your life?
And if you are having trouble visualizing how to expand your work-life to include very different passions, book a complimentary call with me now to start creating your portfolio career today.
Beatrix Potter (2019, 29 April) Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrix_Potter
Becoming, by Michelle Obama (2018). Crown Publishing Group, New York, NY
How to Be Everything, by Emilie Wapnick (2017). Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY
Leonardo da Vinci (2019, 29 April) Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/da_vinci_leonardo.shtml
Winfrey, Oprah (2019, 29 April) Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/in/owinfrey/
Photo: Clay Banks