Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.
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 of 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 I am great at starting new things. I embrace change.
I've given you the story version of a multipotentialite, but what 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 night owl, you can find a gig that doesn’t require you to be there at 6 a.m.
- 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.
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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 when they’re around the same people every day.
- It can take a lot of energy to keep up with everything and constantly learn 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, an artist, a videographer, and 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 your goals and intentions carefully
- 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 a 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 aren’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 of 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Cynthia Calhoun
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on April 27, 2019:
That's the beauty of it: you GET to be in your head doing the things you want to be doing. :) And yes, it IS a gift. :0)
Alina on April 25, 2019:
Being a multipotentialite is a great... gift? Or every person can do it? Well I suppose it depends. While reading article I was asking myself why I am not one of those people? But what if my problem and bareer is only in my head?
Hari Prasad S from Bangalore on February 19, 2019:
Excellent article. I had never thought that i am MP too until i read your article. :-)
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on November 25, 2018:
Thank you, Dora. :) I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and I appreciate your warm comment.!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 24, 2018:
CONGRATULATIONS on your Hubbie Grammar Award! We need your influence to help point us in the right grammar direction. Thanks for being here.
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 16, 2018:
Brian - ha! I love your comment here. I'll look into the enneagram thing - you're not the first person to tell me this. It sounds intriguing and fun to find out more about it.
As for the other jobs, oh the irony in timing you have here. I'm working at a school right now as their part-time marketer and they just offered full-time employment to me, adding teaching Spanish to my list of responsibilities. Given my love of the multipotentialite life, I have yet to accept. On the one hand, I know that after a few years, I might go nuts and need a change, but being part time, I can do other things and not be obligated to the school. Going full time offers me security, but I'm not really enticed by the benefits: I'm more worried about how I'll feel after a year and feeling trapped...
Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on February 11, 2018:
Cynthia, you may be an enneagram 7. See YouTube videos and Web articles about them. Their main motivator is avoiding pain, especially boredom. A 7 is known as a generalist. My wife is an enneagram 7. It would take me a long paragraph to list the careers, jobs, hobbies, and enthusiasms she has had just in the 24 years since I met her.
Some other jobs to consider: pet sitter, house sitter, substitute school teacher, substitute at a school other than teaching, freelance handyperson, eBay seller (for self and others), mailorder used books dealer, and dishwasher (I read an article about a man who traveled all over the USA on the cheap because, wherever he went, someone nearby needed a dishwasher).
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 10, 2018:
Hi, Karen. Hehe. I didn't hear of it until a few years ago and after someone asked me what it was recently, I thought, hmm, I need to write about it. :) Thanks for coming by!
Karen Hellier from Georgia on February 08, 2018:
This is interesting. I have never heard that term before. I guess you learn something new every day!
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 25, 2018:
Aww, thank you, Larry. I appreciate your feedback and I'll return the favor - soon! :)
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on January 23, 2018:
I always enjoy your articles.
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 17, 2018:
Glenn - hey, it's great to see you! :) And glad to know another multipotentialite.
Multi-interests that have kept you busy? You are speaking my language, Sir. Hehe. I used to say that my full time job interfered with all my other endeavors. Once I figured out how to piece different things together, I no longer complain about that. :)
Thanks for your comments and I'll see you around HP!
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 17, 2018:
LOL...Big Bro. Shh...I've been publishing here and there but haven't had a lot of time to go and check out others' hubs and comment. Hehe, so I haven't been publicizing the fact that I've been publishing here more. :P But yes, you're definitely someone I look up to: all the things you do, all the different activities - from gardening to chickens, to coloring books, to writing, to being on different platforms, yes, you GET it!! And that makes me happy. :) Indeed, you're a multipotentialite, too! :) PS...Not only do I think YOU are cool beyond words, but so is Bev. Please tell her I said so. The both of you are definitely folks that I need to meet when we plan our road trip to the Pacific Northwest. :) It's gonna be a year or two, but it's gonna happen. :)
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on January 17, 2018:
Now I understand why I always had many interests. I'm a Multipotentialite!
You helped me put a word to the passion of multi-interests that have kept me busy all my life. Even now that I'm retired, I find myself just as busy as before.
Your article was very refreshing to read Cynthia. You explained things well and gave a lot of great examples.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 17, 2018:
First of all, Lil Sis, I was shocked to see an article posted by you on HP. It's been awhile.
Secondly, I have many interests and have not been without a job in over fifty years....so there are many paths and we all need to find the one that works for us....and you are doing that and I think that is cool beyond words.
And I think you are cool beyond words