Don’t Mind the Gap: Career Pivots are cool

This is the blog post I wrote for Congregation or #cong16, a really cool ‘un-conference’ style digital media and technology festival taking place in Cong, Co Mayo from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th November 2016. This is the fourth year of the event with over 100 experts from all over Ireland and overseas expected. Go along, blog your way in!

My post for #Cong16: Don’t Mind the Gap: Career Pivots are the Future

If I had a euro for every time my mother said ‘you have to learn to stick at something’, I’d have quite a few euro. For five years I was frogmarched to piano lessons and never made it past Preliminary while my sisters raced through the grades. Gladwell tells us that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field, equally, I would say that 10 hours is ample time to see if you’re both interested and/or capable of mastering something. Zumba fitness may be an outlier as one 45 minute floor-to-ceiling mirrored class taught me that I’d never cross over to the parallel universe inhabited by the other participants.

Anyhu, if my dear mother were alive today, I could tell her that there’s a name for people like me: Multipotentialite and it’s ok to have several career pivots.

Emilie Wapnick’s TEDxBend talk: “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” makes for compelling viewing in which she defines a Multipotentialite as a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life.

In her talk, Emilie identified 3 Multipotentialite Superpowers

  1.  Idea Synthesis – combining two or more fields and creating something interesting at the intersection. Multipotentialites with all of their backgrounds are able to access a lot of these points of intersection.
  2. Rapid learning – Multipotentialites are used to being beginners so we’re less afraid of stepping out of comfort zone and trying something new.
  3. Adaptability. We all know the importance of adaptability particularly over the past decade as Wapnick puts it: “there are complex multidimensional problems in the world and we need creative out-of-the-box thinkers to tackle them. We need individuals and organisations that can pivot to meet the needs of the market…”

Wapnick is not suggesting that the Multipotentialite will replace the specialist but instead says the winning team is made up of both specialists and these polymaths/Renaissance people – all working very well together.

So far I’ve been the start-up marketer, academic, entrepreneur, research specialist, speech writer, copywriter, blogger, lecturer, spin doctor and mentor while the language learning, playwriting, swim teaching, catering, filmmaking and sporadic contributions to magazines well they’re just hobbies.

At 43 years young, it’s now time for another pivot, I’ve just started degree number 3 and hope to retrain as a UX designer. Even though my primary degree and most of my job titles have had the m-word, I’d never really consider myself a marketer – I’m more product than promotion. All those jobs, well they’re not all totally unrelated – it’s always been in web or tech, it’s always about wooing and wowing the end user whether that’s the actual product idea, the messaging and now hopefully the experience.

I’d like to think that my varied skills and interests complement each other. I’ve never applied or been hired for a role specifying a second language but I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that I can check out competitors, translate PR coverage and analyse user feedback in a few different languages or that a stint in academia taught me how to write kick-ass applications and reports while endurance sports have given me much-needed discipline from a misspent youth.

Anyway, at Cong last year I was imploring you to be open to hiring someone on the autism spectrum so this year all I’m asking is to be open to those little gaps and inconsistencies in the CV. Just because someone else’s career has taken a different path to yours doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to bring to the table. Globally, these past few months and years have been emotional, to say the least, with the need to embrace diversity never so acute so get out of your comfort zone and work with a multipotentialite if you’re a specialist or a specialist if you’re a multipotentialite and go make something wonderful at the intersection.

Alas I won’t be joining you this year as I’m a poor student!

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