Do you cringe when thinking about pursuing only one career?
As someone with a lot of different passions -- someone with both a film degree and a law degree, who did freelance Web design and played classical violin for much of her life -- I couldn't imagine ever finding a single career that would keep me interested long-term.
If you have a lot of different interests and skills, you're likely multi-passionate, too. I use the term "multipotentialite" to describe us on my website, Puttylike. But you may also be familiar with the terms Renaissance Person, Polymath or Scanner. Basically, it means that you are insatiably curious and like to play in different disciplines.
What I didn't realize when I was younger is that it is absolutely possible to design a career that incorporates many of your interests. Here are a few tips to help you identify those careers and companies that will not only value your multi-passionate nature, but actually pay you to explore and integrate your many interests into your work:
1. Figure out how much variety you require
Are you a multi-passionate who needs to use a number of different skill sets throughout your week? Do you need to be writing one day and leading a group the next? Or do you prefer to work on one project till completion and then jump on an entirely new project?
Knowing how much variety you require in your week, and how often you need to cycle through your various skills to stay happy and engaged, will give you clues as to the right kind of career for you.
2. Look for careers in fields that are interdisciplinary in nature
Is there an intersection point between two or more of your interests? Here are a few examples of interdisciplinary fields:
- Bioethics = Science + Philosophy
- Architecture = Art + Science
- Anthropology = Language, History, Literature, etc.
- Physical Therapy = Health + Athletics
- Filmmaking = Photography, Art, Writing, Business, Music, Design, etc.
3. Look for careers that provide flexibility and are self-directed
Some careers (and companies) value multi-passionate personalities more than others. Look for an organization that appreciates independence and creative thinking and sees your ability to do many tasks as a good thing.
When I was in my second year of law school and applying for summer jobs, I found one legal clinic that loved my diverse background. They took a look at my transcript and enthusiastically asked about the astronomy class I took in undergrad. "What on earth is 'Assembling Space Ship Earth'?" they asked. We talked for awhile about the class. I almost think they hired me because they could sense my passion and curiosity in so many different realms.
4. Get in the door with one skill, then be proactive about doing additional things within your company
One sneaky way to craft your dream career is to get in the door by highlighting one primary skill, then volunteering to take the lead when an opportunity in a different area shows up within your organization. Better yet, be proactive and initiate projects, making suggestions for ways to help your organization grow, innovate or run smoother.
The key again is to find an open-minded organization to work for and a boss who understands you (and is maybe multi-passionate himself). Of course, being an outstanding employee is a given; otherwise your ideas won't be taken seriously.
5. Look for a position that is "mission-based" rather than skill-based
You can often tell by the way a job listing is worded whether a company is looking for someone to perform one task again and again (which won't be fulfilling to you as a multi-passionate) or whether they're focused on an end goal like client happiness or problem-solving.
I recently hired a "Director of Tribe Happiness" at my company. It was unclear exactly what he would be doing (though we had some ideas: forum moderation, customer support, etc.). He ended up doing all of those things and more. Way more. But all of the skills he uses are in service of the ultimate goal of enhancing the experience of our users. How he does that doesn't really matter to me.
It's like they say in copywriting: focus on the benefit, not the features. What can you do for your organization? If you need to use multiple skills to make that happen, so be it.
6. Be an entrepreneur
Running a business naturally requires that you wear a lot of different hats. You need to understand marketing, human psychology, the intricacies of your field, growth and partnerships, product development, design, customer support and so on.
There are endless ways to utilize your skills when running a business. For instance, if you own a coffee shop, you might bring your love of art to your business by having your space host lectures and cultural events. If you're building a consulting business but also love comedy, you could incorporate your humor into the mix and brand yourself as "the funny guy, for fun businesses."
Entrepreneurship is a fantastic way to combine your interests, and if you take a look at many of the successful entrepreneurs -- the Richard Bransons and Russell Simmonses of the world -- you'll notice that they're usually involved in many different facets of their businesses. (And sometimes many different businesses!)
Having a dynamic career that allows you to switch between your skills and explore new areas is completely possible. There are people in every field who have found ways to make their careers more plural. But it first starts with understanding what makes you tick and then seeking out a complimentary career.
How have you gone about integrating many interests into one career? Do you have any tips to add?
Emilie Wapnick recently launched Multi-Passionate Must-Haves, a bundle of 27 products to help you pursue your many passions in a sustainable way.
Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!