Careers as a Multipotentialite
What is a Multipotentialite?
Are you someone who's still looking for your "life's passion" or purpose?
The phrase, "I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up," was something I began to utter when I started thinking seriously about where I wanted to go to college and what career I might potentially enter after that.
"Keep looking," people would tell me. "You just haven't found your true passion, yet."
The truth was, I had so many interests that by the time I was in high school, I already had multiple potential true callings. Subject-wise I loved art, biology, literature, languages, social studies and I certainly didn't mind subjects like math, computer class, or history.
My parents must have recognized the fact that I always had multiple interests. Early on they had me in choir, taking piano and guitar lessons, playing tennis, running in cross country, volunteering, ice skating, and more.
In college, I didn't declare my major until my junior year, after I'd taken several anthropology classes and enjoyed them. When I had to pick, I ended up in anthropology because at least it seemed to include many of my interests in the sciences, languages, and even art.
After college, I never knew how I would embark upon a series of careers that would pique my interests. Over the years I’ve been a car rental agent, an ice cream scooper, a barista, bookseller, writer, Spanish teacher, interpreter, tutor, photographer, artist, social media marketer, website designer, after school director, ski instructor, an assistant manager at a marina, and even an optician-in-training.
I used to think that there might be something wrong with me: after a couple years (sometimes less, sometimes more) in a job, I'd find that I'd get bored out of my mind and had a need to do something else.
When someone told me one day that I was a "multipotentialite," I knew that that was my calling: I knew I'd always have new jobs and be learning new skills. I love to learn, and am great at starting new things. I embrace change.
I've given you the story-version of a multipotentialite, but was is it really?
It's someone who has a broad range of interests and seeks to use those interests in their occupation(s). For these people, the "one true path" doesn't exist.
They put together two or more jobs to satisfy different interests or switch careers every so often. Folks often refer to people who have multiple careers and jobs as "slashers." This is because they'll often say, "Hi, I'm so and so. I'm a lawyer, slash author, slash counselor," for example.
Benefits of Being a Multipotentialite In Terms of Careers
Many people enjoy just focusing on one specialty as their career. But the multipotentialite (MP) has a different approach: multiple careers or jobs. They tend to "go broad," acquiring different skills and applying them in a variety of ways. For this reason, there are real benefits to being an MP:
- it plays to different, often wide-ranging, interests
- just when one job gets tiresome, there’s always another possibility
- it doesn’t get boring
- this "calling" requires different skills
- MPs are adept at learning new things
- if one job dries up, there's still income
- it's easier to avoid office politics because MPs generally aren't there enough to get involved
- it can accommodate personal schedules and preferences - i.e. if you’re a nightowl, you can find a gig that doesn’t require you to be there at 6am
- it allows for the exploration of other interests while still working full time or at other part-time jobs
- multiple skills help with versatility when searching for jobs
Not Everyone Has Their "True Calling"
For All the Benefits, There are Drawbacks
Embarking on multiple careers at once (or even serially) is not the easiest career path. There is something to be said for the stability of a full-time job with benefits. For that reason, it's good to know the potential drawbacks of an MP lifestyle:
- most part-time jobs do not offer benefits such as health insurance or 401Ks
- managing money is sometimes difficult with variable income
- change is the name of the game
- changing jobs can be stressful
- MPs might not develop deeper connections with coworkers as when they’re around the same people every day
- it can take a lot of energy keeping up with everything and constantly learning new skills
- society doesn't always understand the needs of an MP and can see them as frivolous or flaky
I Wouldn't Trade It For Anything
After years of trying different full-time jobs and gigs, I have come to realize that I need multiple part-time jobs to be at my best.
It took a long time for me to learn this. However, when I was taking summer classes in college, I was also working at a bookstore, painting a mural for a restaurant, and interpreting at a local non-profit. I loved it. But, I still hadn't discovered that putting together an MP career was even a possibility.
Fast forward ten years. Now, I am employed part-time at a school as their social media marketer. The rest of the time I am a freelance writer (like right here at HubPages!), an artist, a videographer, a blogger. If I ever need extra money, I can tutor students in Spanish or build websites for people.
I have enough variety and feel quite challenged in all that I do.
How to Set Up an MP Career
I'll be the first to admit that setting this up isn't always easy. But really take a look at yourself and even if you don't know exactly what you do want, it often helps to figure out what you don't want.
Last year when my gig as an after school director dried up, I was located on a university campus. They offered me full-time employment as a university adviser. Honestly, I wasn't even tempted to take it: I knew that I didn't want to push papers and look up class lists all day long. I was grateful, but I also knew that I needed to pursue other avenues and I'm glad I did.
Here are my best tips when considering going the MP route:
- Consider carefully your goals and intentions
- Find out expectations of all potential employers
- Let them know if you work elsewhere so they know exactly when they can expect you
If you're in a full time position right now, here are some things you can do to help yourself move in the direction you want to go:
- Assess whether it’s even possible to go down to 3/4 time or 1/2 time (or even less, depending on what you want to do) - in some types of jobs, this will be easy, but not in others.
- Begin looking at, or start creating the part-time gig - for me it was writing at HubPages back in 2011 and taking on freelance assignments.
- Start working at your part-time gig while you’re still working your other job full time for a few reasons: to find out if you like it, to save money, and to help the transition when you leave your full-time employment.
- Once you have your first part-time job lined up, then you can start looking for a second or third job, and begin to cut down from the full-time work.
Something else to consider is that you might be able to “chop up” your full-time work if working multiple part time jobs is too scary. I once worked as a Spanish teacher in the mornings and as social media marketer/graphic designer in the afternoons at the same school.
Tips From the Trenches
Because I have been there and done that being a multipotentalite, I can share my successes and failures.
Here are some tips I've learned along the way:
- Have some savings because you don't know what's going to happen. When I first tried to do this, I took someone’s word that they’d have a part time job waiting for me after I quit my full-time job. We didn't exchange signed papers or contracts and it was after I quit my full-time job that the part-time job fell through. My savings kept me afloat while I lined up new avenues of employment.
- Sometimes you’ll need to take on a job that isn’t that satisfying in order to pay the bills. Personally, I don't mind tutoring, for example, but I'd rather spend time on more creative pursuits.
- Remember, all of this can be as temporary as you want. If you decide that the MP lifestyle and career isn’t for you, you can keep doing this until you find more full-time employment and resume more traditional employment.
- Try not to compare yourself to others. Everyone’s different and even those who do the multipotentalite / slasher career have vastly different ways of pulling it off.
- Think of yourself as an entrepreneur - because you are! Have goals in place and even a business plan to keep you on track.
- It takes time to put this together. Finding a couple great jobs to suit your needs takes effort, and patience.
- Be open to possibilities - something may not seem fun until you try it.
- Make connections - networking with others not only lets you know that you're not alone, but it can lead to new jobs or other opportunities.
- Consider different modalities. Let’s say you’re a teacher. You could then tutor online and create Youtube videos to teach your subject. Or you could develop "tutoring packages" and have people download them from your website for a small fee.
- Listen to what others around you are telling you (as long as it resonates). For years people told me I should create a coloring book from my drawings. I came up with any number of reasons not to. Finally, I took a chance and published a coloring book and a journal. I plan to publish more. It's about facing your fears.
- Speaking of facing fears, embarking on the MP lifestyle can be stressful and scary. It's not always easy figuring out how to put it all together. But if there's anything that an MP is good at, it's coming up with ideas and innovating our way through life.
- Know your boundaries. There's a lot of freedom in this lifestyle, but sometimes in trying to make ends meet, you can overwork yourself. Try to step back every so often and regroup.
I love being a multipotentialite! It gives me the time and freedom to pursue my interests in a way that is congruent with my needs.
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© 2018 Cynthia Calhoun