“It’s completely possible to have a life with plenty of variety that also provides stability.” – Emilie Wapnick
Whichever term you favor, the meaning behind it is what’s important.
What is a Multipotentialite?
According to our guest (and coiner of the term), Emilie Wapnick, a multipotentialite is a person that doesn’t have “one true calling the way that specialists do.”
Emilie describes multipods as people with many paths that pursue all of them, either sequentially or simultaneously (or both).
A person with Multipotentiality “thrives on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills.” As innovators and problem solvers, the multi-passionate have the need to discover anything and everything to satisfy their curiosity.
While having the drive to learn new things and master new skills is a fantastic quality and strength to have while job searching, a lot of multi-passionate people struggle with finding a career that “fits” them because they have such a wide range of interests. This makes it hard to narrow down a specific career, since there are so many choices out there that they can thrive in and leaves them often asking “what do I want to be when I grow up.”
Is the struggle starting to make sense?
Do you find that you identify as a multipotentialite now?
The secret in thriving as a multi-passionate, career-minded person, as we will outline below, is finding that sweet spot in the amount of variety a multipod needs in their career. As a Jack/Jill-of-All-Trades, you’ll have to pinpoint the intersection between your interests that will not only make you happy, but earn you money.
Emilie, a multipod herself, has studied and surveyed individuals that identify themselves as multi-passionate people and has outlined strategies that allow you to succeed in creating a career and a life that encompasses your many passions as a multipotentialite. If you want to hear more of Emilie’s story check out episode 103.
Let’s take a closer look at how a mulipotentialite can structure their work and position themselves to build a career by combining their interests.
WORK MODELS & STRATEGIES FOR THE MULTIPOTENTIALITE:
STRATEGY 1: Group Hug
The Group Hug approach to your career is defined by having a multifaceted job or business that allows you to wear many hats and shift between several domains.
This approach allows you to take your passions and do some research to find jobs that encompass your most-valued interests. You’ll want to look at starting a career in interdisciplinary fields like teaching, urban planning, or architecture.
If you’re struggling to find an interdisciplinary field that you’d enjoy on your own, another way to go about finding an industry you could succeed in is by doing a different kind of research, and finding where the multipods hang out and ask for their career advice.
Another great way to Group Hug your interests into one full-time career is to look for work at an open-minded organization, small businesses are usually a great place to start. If you get the chance to pitch a new job task outside your job description make sure to frame it in a way that the organization can see how it will benefit.
And if you aren’t able to combine your interests in your day job, you could always start a side hustle to work on your other passion projects!
STRATEGY 2: Slash Approach
This approach is a great work model for those multipotentiality if you have a lot of niche interests that don’t directly compliment one another.
To these folks with interests that distinctly differ, “part-time” jobs are the dream. That is, jobs that are intentionally part-time so it allows you to work in completely separate passions, as opposed to a handful of part-time jobs that you have just to pay the bills.
The Slash work model is a favorite among people that highly value freedom and flexibility in their career, consequently, the Slash approach does require a fair amount of self-direction, independence, and organizational skills.
Side-hustlers also fall in as the Slash careerist.
STRATEGY 3: Einstein Approach
The Einstein approach is defined as having a full-time job or business that fully supports you financially, is mentally-simulating rather than mentally-exhausting, one that you thoroughly enjoy, and still leaves you with the time and energy to pursue your other passions on the side.
This is also referred to as having a “good enough job.” Your current job is good enough to pay your bills, while allowing you to explore other work on the side.
The Einstein model is enjoyable, fun, yet provides you with a challenge outside of your day job.
Side note: Are you wondering how people that use the Einstein approach find the extra time and energy to work on passion projects after working a full-day job?
As multipotentialites have such a variety of interests, many of them that effectively use the Einstein approach to fulfill their needs to work in their passions often times work on completely separate, yet enjoyable interests that utilize different parts of their brain, because it allows them to have the energy to work outside of their day jobs.
STRATEGY 4: Phoenix Approach
Working in a single industry for several months or years, then shifting gears to start a new career in a new field is what the Phoenix approach to careers is all about.
If you’re angling towards the Phoenix approach and you’re ready to make your switch, an easy way to transition to another full-fledged career is to start to build something on the side because it will allow you to continue to grow it so you will a smooth transition when you’re ready to move onto the next career.
Speaking of transitioning careers, below are a few suggestions to make that move as easy as possible.
“Don’t buy into the idea that [multipotentialites] are the ‘Jack-Of-All-Trades, Master-of-None.’ It’s totally possible to nail this stuff and thrive as a multipod.”
How to create a smooth transition as a Multipotentialite
- Reach out to your network connections and find people in the field you’re trying to get into
- Expand your network and go to more events
- Volunteer in a job or industry you're interested in to gain experience
- "Free work" - Reach out to an organization, pitch the work you think needs to be done and outline how you would like to do that for free, as you continue to excell in the work you're doing, pitch the idea of getting paid for the job
- Job shadow
- Get training
On top of that, remember to take note and emphasize your transferable skills in every job you pursue. Your career experience, no matter the industry, is valuable. The important part is being able to frame those transferable skills and strengths to benefit any organization that you plan on contacting.
I Want More Information!
If you're still running into roadblocks after following Emilie's work approaches for multipotentialites or feel like you're still missing a piece of your career puzzle, get in touch with our world-class career coaches and they will help guide you through your obstacles and provide you with the support you need to combine your passions into a career work plan!
Head on over to https://www.happentoyourcareer.com/coaching to find the career help you need.
Catch Emilie's live presentation from this podcast below!
Remember, now that you've decided to do something about your current situation, you've already made progress. And, just because you've made a decision to move forward with one thing, doesn't mean that you're committed to it forever.
There is always a way to pivot.
Once you take action and do something different from what you've been doing, you're already moving in the right direction.
Don't rush your career change process. By doing that, you defeat the purpose of the time you've put into doing all of the soul-searching and goal-setting to find your next career move.
If you hit a road block and don't know what to do next, don't be too hard on yourself.
Big life change isn't always a leisurely stroll in the park.
If you find that you need an extra push of support, we've got the resources for you. Check out the Career Change Bootcamp program as it was created to guide you to build a strong foundation in finding the right path to your next career.
Transcript from Episode
Scott Barlow: This is something I’m excited to do for a couple reasons. We haven’t done a lot of this before. It is a simultaneous live event and a recording for our podcast. We have a lot of things going on. The other reason I’m excited is because we have our guest instructor, Emilie Wapnick. She has been on the show and done a spot for career change boot camp. She is the author of How to be Everything. A new book coming out soon, if it isn’t already. She coins phrases and spreads words like multipotentialite. She is cool peeps. We are excited to have you here with us Emilie Wapnick, on the show and the webinar. We appreciate you making the time.
Emilie Wapnick: Thanks for having me. This is great, so much fun.
Scott Barlow: It’s been fun in the past. This is the third or fourth time that we have done something like this.
Emilie Wapnick: I think there is a lot of overlap in our communities. A lot of multipotentialites in both.
Scott Barlow: Absolutely. That is what we have discovered. I know I’ve told you, but for everyone else, part of the way we met was because I had five or six or seven clients at the same time reach out with the same link. It was a person named Emilie who did a Tedx talk about what to do if you don’t have just one true calling. We then met over Twitter and later over tea in Portland. I think that was like two years ago as crazy as that is.
Emilie Wapnick: Yeah I remember you being like thanks a lot Emilie, my inbox is being flooded thanks to you.
Scott Barlow: Yeah, that is how it all happened. Behind the scenes for you, one of the reasons we’ve had you back a couple of times is your relevant expertise and your experience. You really specialize with people that have lots of interests. That’s the easiest way to say that. How do you describe that? Then we will discuss things we’ve talked about that will be beneficial. How do you describe that? Give us an idea of what we will learn.
Emilie Wapnick: I help multipotentialites build lives around their many passions. A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits. Maybe that means you dive into one thing for a while, lose interest, become fascinated by something else and dive into that and move into one interest after the next. Or maybe you have five things going on at once. There is no wrong way to be a multipotentialite. It just means you have a lot of interests in many subjects.
Scott Barlow: Which I love. Today we are going to talk about how people can look at the intersection between all of these interests and passions to earn money. Because, for many people, there is that necessity.
Emilie Wapnick: That was the impetus for me to write this book. I had been blogging for a while and learning from other people who do different things, sharing what I’m learning and I have a community. I wanted to figure out how multipotentialites make a living. Where does the money come from and how do they structure their work? I embarked on this big research project that turned into this book.
Scott Barlow: I’m glad you did. I remember talking to you about this book when we were having tea. You were choosing the title and going through everything you do when writing a book, right in the midst of it. You said it was hard, but I’m glad you pushed through and did it because it’s well worth it on the receiving end. I’ve looked through it and its good stuff.
Let’s jump into this. I’m relinquishing control and you can take us on this journey so we can talk about how you can have many interests and still add value to the world and receive value, likely in the form of money, and how it connects.
Emilie Wapnick: Sounds good. When people ask what my book is about I say it is a current guide for people who have many passions and don’t just want to do one thing. If that sounds like you, you are in the right place. I start the book with a story that I will tell here because it shows my problem and where everything came to a head for me. Ten years ago it was my 23rd birthday and I was out to lunch with my roommate. We bumped into an old acquaintance, my former acting teacher in high school. We bumped into each other every couple years. We were catching up and she told me about her acting studio and then she asked me what I was into. I was just finishing undergrad where I had studied communications and film production and randomly taken a law class and become fascinated with this new way to look at the world. I decided to go to law school and got in. I was in this transition period and very excited and I enthusiastically said I’m starting law school in the fall. And her reaction was weird. She got a grimace on her face and said I thought you were going to be a film maker. I didn’t know how to respond. I just shrugged and said nope.
It made me feel really ashamed and that I had a problem that I couldn’t commit to something for the long term. I don’t know who I am. These thoughts rushed into my head and the interaction really bugged me. I thought about it for a few years after it happened. Fast forward. I’m graduating from law school and know I don’t want to be a lawyer. It’s not the life I want and it’s run its course. I’m interested in something else. I’m thinking about it and it’s the first time I decided and made the choice to not regard this jumping around quality as a bad thing. This is who I am and how my brain works. I wanted to find a way to make it work. I didn’t want to jump from job to job all the time and worry about where a paycheck is coming from. I wanted to find a way to live a stable life and have a thriving career and still explore many things. That was where the idea for my blog Puttylike came about in 2010. I thought maybe there are other people like this and we could figure this out together. There are maybe people already doing this that I can learn from. I started blogging and it turns out there are a lot of other people out there like this. I use the word multipotentialite to describe other people like us. There are other terms out there: generalist, renaissance person, and scanner. It’s not about the word but the idea behind it so use whatever word you like.
I really wanted to understand how multipotentialites make a living. A few years after blogging I thought I needed to read a book about this. There are a lot of books about this phenomenon but they don’t go deep into the work side of things and actually making money. You have traditional career guides meant for specialists that help you assess your aptitudes, skills, and passions and whittle it to one perfect fit. That doesn’t work for multipotentialites. There was a gap. No career and work resources for multipotentialites. My methodology goes as follows: I decided I was going to conduct interviews and surveys because I had the audience. I chose fifty people to interview. There were multipotentialites that said they were happy and financially comfortable. I then sent out a survey and got a couple thousand results. I had quite a bit of data. What I wanted to understand was how they structured their careers and made a living. It was frustrating at first because multipotentialites can be found in any and every career.
Where do I start? Some people love being an architect because they can blend science and the arts. Others like to be entrepreneurs to set their own schedule. Others liked being a teacher. It was hard to find commonalities. Everyone I spoke to had three key ingredients in their lives and careers. They had sufficient amounts of money which is different from person to person some are frugal and others have expensive tastes. You have to be clear on your financial goals. They also had careers that gave them a sense of meaning. We don’t just want careers where you are doing a lot of things and making money but also contributing to the world and making a difference. They also had the right amount of variety. It can be important for specialists but really for multipotentialites. It is lost in a lot of conventional career models. You aren’t going to a regular guidance counselor to get help starting a career in two or more fields with variety. The conversation isn’t being had.
Scott Barlow: Doctor/lawyer and violinist/clay maker/whatever.
Emilie Wapnick: It’s so funny when you are going through college you have to choose a major but no one says “oh you have a major why don’t you broaden that or otherwise you will be a one trick pony.” We get accused of being a jack of all trades master of none, but specialists don’t get called out as being one trick ponies. Variety is really important for multipotentialites. The amount required is different from person to person. If you don’t have enough variety you will be bored and not feel like you can express all of who you are and not living up to your potential. If you have too much you will feel scattered, overwhelmed, and like you aren’t making progress. You have to find out the amount for you. Do you like three projects or ten or do you go through them sequentially. Maybe you have six month contracts or change industries every five to ten years. What does it look like for you?
The big question is how do you get your money, meaning, and variety into your life and career? People had all kinds of different jobs and various industries. I ended up picking out four commonly used work models I kept seeing. Last time we spoke I went through them but I’m going into more detail now. Remember you can be a hybrid or mix and match. I don’t tell multipotentialites to pick one thing. It’s a starting point and a way to see what others are doing. Customize it and make it your own.
The first commonly used work model is the group hug approach. It’s as if you could imagine all your interests coming together in one big group hug. The official definition is having a multifaceted job or business that allows you to wear many hats and shift among several domains at work.
I will read a quote from the book. I think this person expresses it better than me. This woman is an urban planner which is a career in a naturally interdisciplinary field. In a single week you may find her researching, mapping, conducting field visits, interviewing people, working with communities, drafting reports, organizing events, designing, planning policies, communicating to the public, advocating for a project to be approved, and evaluating completed projects. She has ample opportunity to do both the theoretical and practical. She gets to work in a variety of contexts. “You get to stay inside, do research, discuss with colleagues, and do field work.” The definition of urban is so broad you get to explore a bunch of different areas: Housing transportation, environment, arts, education, architecture, agriculture, design landscape, politics, and history.
Scott Barlow: That’s funny. That’s what my mom does. She is an Urban and Regional Growth Planner.
Emilie Wapnick: Nice. You wear many hats in that job. A really good approach for a multipotentialite. That is strategy number one to create this for yourself. You can find an interdisciplinary multifaceted job or create one. This is one approach. Look at your interests and see if there are any fields that encompass several of your interests. Maybe there is a field you can use your different skills and curiosities. My editor asked me to make a list and it was challenging because there are many interdisciplinary fields. There is an appendix at the end with the fields and their elements.
Scott Barlow: What are a couple examples?
Emilie Wapnick: Bio-ethics. Elements: Law, life sciences, technology, philosophy, medicine, and politics.
Instructional design. Elements: Education theory, neuroscience, technology, interactive media designs, psychology, research, storytelling, communications, programming, visual design, audio correction, technical writing, and editing.
There are things like bio-informatics, creative coding, design, education, which is broad, event management, integrative medicine, sustainable development, and publishing. My editor and agent both came to me several times while writing this and said I do all these things, it’d be a great job for a multipotentialite.
The second strategy to find or create a group hug career is to ask where the multipotentialites hang out. Sometimes in a particular industry or field there is a subset where the mutipods gravitate toward. Being a teacher is pretty multifaceted. You have to be a facilitator, be a counselor, and understand different learning styles, and emotional issues. For some people that isn’t enough variety.
I interviewed a person named Sarah Meister who is a teacher at a Waldorf school. She teaches every subject to her class. She is with them all day and is able to focus on a lot of different things and draw connections between different classes. She can connect art and math. This doesn’t happen in a conventional school because teachers teach different subjects. They also move the grades with their students up to grade eight and then start over. You aren’t teaching the same thing ever year. That is one subset in education that is multi-faceted where you can be creative and it’s never the same.
Scott Barlow: That is an interesting point and I love the example. I have found again and again where people come to us and know what they are interested in but have too many things. They are aware. That example is great because after looking more closely the challenge for some people is that they can’t see how to bring some of the things together. They have a certain view of teachers. They say they couldn’t be in the classroom all day teaching the same thing. If I’m in grade school I could not teach that year after year or in high school I could not do it hour after hour. There are ways to tweak that like what you are saying. What are the small things to tweak even if I don’t know how it is possible yet?
Emilie Wapnick: If you look around you can find a specialty within an area that is more interdisciplinary. More multipotentialites move their interests that direction. Another woman was studying medicinal chemistry and was finding it hard to figure out what to specialize in. She found science communications which is explaining scientific concepts to lay people. She found it was multi-faceted because there were so many mediums to work in and audiences. It was a lot of different subjects.
The third thing, and it’s not exclusive, is to work for an open minded organization. Smaller organizations like startups tend to be more open to people stepping out of their job description and taking more responsibility and starting new projects. If you are looking for an organization to work for pay attention to the language of the ad. In the book I talk about Threadless, the online t-shirt shop. I once discovered a listing they had for a Creative Director and they said they wanted someone comfortable working across disciplinary teams, creative, stepping out of your comfort zone, trying new things, and that they wanted to hear your ideas. This ad was calling for a multipotentialite. I think they used the word adaptable. Look for that language. I think smaller companies can’t afford to hire people for every little role so they rely on generalists to move around.
Scott Barlow: We do the same thing. We have two positions right now and I’m looking for that. We don’t have many people and we need people to wear lots of hats. We need to hire multipotentialites.
Emilie Wapnick: Same here. I almost always hire multipotentialites. Except if it’s a one off like I had a technical problem and needed a programmer. It would be hard otherwise for the day to day stuff.
Sometimes you already have a job and you want to integrate your other skills into the mix. It doesn’t work for every employer but some can be convinced. It’s about how you approach them. The key is to lead with their interests in mind. I spoke with a woman named Margo Yue who has been at the same company for 16-17 years. She has jumped around departments. I asked how she did it. She told me that in the 90s the internet was starting to become a thing. She was initially hired for PowerPoint presentations. She told them the internet was going to be a big deal and asked to build a website and told them why it was important. They let her do it. It took off and now they have a whole department under control. She didn’t say I’m good at html and I really like doing graphic design. She said you are going to need this for this reason. I think that is important when pitching a project or initiative. Frame it in their interests. Integrate your other skills if you can.
Scott Barlow: Fantastic. You can mold your own job. Done that hundreds of times.
Emilie Wapnick: I worked at a legal clinic one summer. We educated the public about copyright and users rights. I made an animation to explain it through this method because it would be fun to use my flash skills. I didn’t pitch it that I can do this thing but instead that I feel like an animation would help. That was more fun than writing legal memos.
Strategy five is a big one. You can start a business. When you start a business, especially at the beginning you will wear many hats. A lot goes into it, product development, customer service, legal, and finance. Especially when you are starting out and can’t hire other people to help. I have found a lot of people get stuck on the idea that they will have to choose a niche which can be hard for multipotentialites. I talk about the renaissance business. A broader business where you offer things in different areas helping with different things. You can do this in a way so that you are not confusing everyone and your business doesn’t look totally scattered. I won’t get into it a ton now because it’s huge. I’ve got several blog posts about it that I can send to you Scott.
Here are a couple examples. There is a cafe in Alabama I discovered created by a bunch of designers and it has social justice initiatives. They have bike repairs, catering apprenticeships, and discussions. It’s not just a bakery but has a broader social mission. Seems like a cool place. Another example is my friend Abe Caputo who is a freelancer who does video directing, web design, Kickstarter consulting, online course creation all under this umbrella of helping clients with high impact multimedia story telling. That is an example of someone doing a lot under one business.
The second commonly used work model is the slash approach. This is someone who is a programmer/teacher/doctor/standup comedian. With the slash approach you aren’t combining interests in one business or job but keeping them separate and distinct. It is having two or more part time jobs or businesses you flip between on a regular basis. (Shows diagram) I’m not the best illustrator but I thought I’d try drawing because it gives it a nice handmade element.
For another example, this is Morgan and she works part time at a nonprofit that does prison outreach and is also a freelance marketer and aerial silks artist. With aerial silks you flip and hang and fly around with giant silk fabrics. It’s pretty impressive. She gets hired to do performances. She moves through these three distinct revenues streams over a week. For slash careerists part time is the dream. Almost everyone I spoke to said they love each of their different jobs for different reasons but wouldn’t want to do any of them full time. It’s about the right amount. It’s important to distinguish between people who have different jobs to make ends meet, which is fine and many people have to do that from time to time, but here we are talking about an intentional choice to build a career this way. Instead of having one job all the time I’m going to have three or four.
Scott Barlow: Intention versus need.
Emilie Wapnick: A slash career is great for people who need a high degree of freedom and flexibility. Usually they are employed and self-employed, a mix in there. Usually some jobs or projects are easier to move around. A lot of people who have artistic pursuits will use this approach because if you need to make it to a last minute audition or gig they can shift things around. It’s important to be self-directed if you use the slash approach because it is unlike if you have the group hug job or traditional employment where the rules are clear and you have to be in the office. In this kind you have to figure things out for yourself and be organized. It is a good approach for independent people, good at organizational stuff.
An interesting thing I discovered is that a lot of times multipotentialites will become fascinated by something specific and will want to explore it and work in the area but know they will get bored because it is narrow. Sometimes you just need a few narrow things and then you are good because you have variety. I spoke to Theodore Jordan who had several specific offerings. He is self-employed and does audio. It sounds boring but he makes weird samples for paranormal soundtracks for ghost hunting shows. He once froze a microphone and had someone skate over it and record it. He does weird things with sound. He also builds websites for insurance companies. Very narrow and niche. He has an online shopping cart blog because he is a shopping cart nerd and has affiliate links. He is developing a meditation audio program. It was interesting to discover it. The narrower our interests the more we need for variety. If we get into something interdisciplinary we may not need other projects. If you have a lot of niche interests the slash approach may be a good one.
Some people will run multiple businesses. You can combine a lot in one or you can have multiple businesses. Some people will do this, starting one business at a time and get it going because starting a business can take a lot of effort and time. Others will put themselves out there and see what people will hire them for and go from there.
Scott Barlow: We see a lot of people with a day job and a side gig as a variation. That’s another way to go to spread out. I know it’s infringing on one of your methods, but we see that as a variation, where you are intentional on keeping it at the same time or rotating things.
Emilie Wapnick: It makes sense. I think a lot of times it’s a good escape plan to have a side hustle but some people like to have both things going. They are both good revenue streams but one may be more full time than another.
We have the Einstein approach to work. Albert Einstein for a while was employed for the government at the Patent Office. This was a job that provided him with money. It was secure and he didn’t have to worry about what passions would generate income but he explored his theories on the side. Barbara Share calls this a good enough job. The idea is you have the job that pays the bills you enjoy enough and it leaves you the time and energy to explore your many things on the side. Some people find this freeing because they don’t have to worry about monetizing every little thing they like.
Emilie Wapnick: The official definition of the Einstein approach is having one fulltime job or business that fully supports you, leaving you with time and energy to pursue your other passions on the side.
Emilie Wapnick: Charlie Harper. This photo is of him in a production of the Adams Family. He sent me another one but I like this one. He is an IT Director with a 9-5 job. He has standard work but then he leaves the office and has musical theater or a capella practice. He builds furniture on the weekends. He just built a boat. He is the classic Einstein approach. We’ll call him an Einsteiner.
For your main job that supports you to be good enough it has to fulfill three criteria. It needs to be enjoyable, preferably even challenging, and fun in an area you have genuine interest. You shouldn’t hate your day job and then be excited because you get to explore your passions. It needs to have enough salary to meet your financial goals, as defined by you. If you aren’t paying your bills it isn’t good enough because you won’t be free enough to explore your passions on the side. It needs to leave you enough free time and energy to pursue your other passions. If you feel drained at the end of the day or have to answer emails late into the night it won’t work.
One of the things I wondered going into this was where people find the energy to go from the full day of work to their passion projects. I discovered a lot of people will have personal projects very different from their day job so they shift to different parts of their brain. Charlie goes form left brain logical lineal thinking to artistic expressive activities. I kept finding that. I think it’s the key. If you spend all day doing one thing and then try to do the same you will feel tired.
Scott Barlow: I can identify with that.
Emilie Wapnick: When you are figuring out which of your skills and passions to turn into the good enough job or business, because you can have a lucrative business that will pay well and support you, you can go and explore without worrying. It is important to know which of your skills people will pay more for. And it needs to be one of your interests so you will enjoy it. It is unlikely for better or worse to find someone who’s good enough job is theater directing because it doesn’t usually pay a ton. They tend to do it because they love it. For your good enough business or job you need to pick something you are interested in that will pay well so you have the freedom to explore on the side. It’s unfortunate but some skills are valued more than others.
We have the fourth common work model the Phoenix Approach. I used to call it the sequential approach.
Scott Barlow: I was going to ask you about the name change.
Emilie Wapnick: Yes, I feel like the Phoenix is the perfect metaphor for someone in this model because they get to the end of their life and explode in a burst of flame and rise from the ashes and start a new career in a new area. The sequential approach makes sense, just not as colorful. The other work models have good imagery I didn’t want to leave it behind.
Scott Barlow: I like how you make your decisions.
Emilie Wapnick: People also remember things that have images. The Phoenix approach is working in a single industry for several months or years then shifting gears and starting a new career in a new field. I met Trevor Clark in 2010. He was a blogger and he coined multipotentialite. He gave me permission to run with it. He was a marketer at the time. We lost touch and I noticed a few years later that he was posting articles about mushroom farming. He had started a mushroom farm. They grew artisanal, fancy mushrooms for little high end farm to table restaurants. It was so different from what he had been doing and he was so into it. He was talking about petri dishes and sounded like a scientist. A few years later he ended up selling his share of the business and became an operations manager for a local field exchange. Then a few years later he was working as a technical support analyst. He moves through his interests sequentially, one after the next, with several years between as opposed to the slash approach where there may only be a few hours between interests. This approach is good for people who like to move through interests sequentially and like to go deeper before making the switch.
Scott Barlow: I’m thinking. For me personally I’ve used a combination of all of them at different points in my life. Definitely the Einstein piece for a while. That was almost my college career because I had a side business, which was sometimes 60 hours, but on the side. Later I made a lot of career changes which was like Phoenix. At one point I was top of the company but then almost got fired because I was bored. That is interesting thinking in my own context hearing you talk about it for like seven times. That is proof positive that it doesn’t have to be one and can shift over time.
Emilie Wapnick: I think the Phoenix approach lends itself to blending with the others. While you are in that field what are you going to do? Are you going to have a group hug thing going on? Right now I’m a mix between the Phoenix and Group Hug approaches. I moved through different interests with about five years between each one, but now I’m doing this multipotentialite Puttylike business thing and doing so many things so I have a group hug project going on as my main thing. I’ve been at this for six and a half years and I’m not bored yet. Maybe I’m just a group hugger now.
Scott Barlow: You’ve shifted.
Emilie Wapnick: Yeah. I just sent Trevor a slide to check with him and he told me I could tell you he’s starting a new thing teaching mushroom growing techniques in an online course combining his technology skills with his farming skills. I was like oh great you are going to do the group hug thing now.
Scott Barlow: That is exactly what I was going to ask about. For people that are just starting to think about it in this way what advice would you give? It looks like you have some tips.
Emilie Wapnick: I do, tips for a smooth transition. But what do you mean exactly?
Scott Barlow: I mean, we have lots of people that are in transition and many of the folks in our career change boot camp are in transition. Many people that listen to the podcast are ready to be or are in transition. I’m curious what people can do to take this and immediately apply it.
Emilie Wapnick: I’ve found Phoenix, when transitioning, start building something new on the side for a while developing relationships and looking for opportunities. You want to do the transition smoothly because it can really upend things to just quit one day. I’ll go through my tips for a smooth transition and for getting into any industry.
Reach out to your existing network and see if anyone has connections for the thing you want to move into. Expand your network, go to events, and meet people. It’s often about who you know. A lot of people I spoke with volunteered. It can be a good way to get job offers in the new area and make connections. Scott are you familiar with Charlie Hoehn and his idea of free work?
Scott Barlow: I’ve interacted with him a bit but I don’t know him well.
Emilie Wapnick: If you are doing freelancing and you want to work for small businesses or small printers you can do what Charlie calls free work. You reach out telling them they could do something better or they should be doing something and you want to do it for free. Show them an example, you do free work and if you are doing well after a while you pitch the idea of doing it for pay. Charlie worked for Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi doing it this way, and several other people. That is an interesting approach. He has a free pdf you can download called recession proof graduate.
Scott Barlow: I love the free work. I have done that and helped others do it too. It is very effective and you can combine a couple things. Our most recent podcast with Michael Bigelow, who was involved in career change boot camp and a coaching client, was essentially about reaching out to his network and expanding it. He was meeting these different people that were in the companies and industries he wanted to be in. He was having conversations and identifying their biggest problems in a useful, casual, organic way and he would go do the work they didn’t have time to do and come back and show them and ask them to tell him if it was useful. It is exactly what you said. He did a couple things. He got to know the person and at the same time decide whether he enjoyed it because he was actually doing the work without getting paid. Several of these turned into introductions to other companies and job offers. You can do that in a job capacity at the same time. We’ve done that with people getting into consulting.
Emilie Wapnick: It’s a good approach if you don’t have the credentials or experience. Instead of convincing someone you show them you can do the work. Finally, there is the option of getting some training if it makes sense financially and with time. If you need a degree or license or to take a class. Always an option.
Scott Barlow: Very cool.
Emilie Wapnick: There’s one more. Bonus. Emphasize your transferable skills when you are up for something in a new industry. I spoke with a woman named Maria Wilberg who had a background in various industries such as health education and social justice stuff. She was applying to be a paralegal with no experience. She talked about things she did in her previous jobs that were relevant. How she worked in high stress environments with emotional clients and was really good at meeting tight deadlines; those things. If you don’t have experience but you can show how things from the past are relevant and fit the job at hand it can go a long way.
Scott Barlow: Very cool. We are getting close to the end of time but I want to make sure we save time in case there are questions for those who are live. I would love to first say thank you. I appreciate you being willing to move some of your schedule around. I know you were sick last week. Forces of nature against us. You still made it happen and I appreciate that. I perused through the book and have enjoyed it so far. The book is How to Be Everything. Where can people find that and more about you?
Emilie Wapnick: At Howtobeeverything.com. It’s available at online retailers and bookstores. If they want to learn more about me they can go to puttylike.com.
Scott Barlow: Very cool. Anything else you would add for folks that are getting started or parting advice?
Emilie Wapnick: I feel like when you make this discovery about yourself that you are a multipotentialite there can be a big moment that it explains so much: I’m not weird, I have superpowers. There are other people making this work and thriving. It can then be followed up with a question. Now what? How do I make a living? What do I do with my interests and make this work? It’s completely possible to have a life with plenty of variety that also provides stability. People think multipotentialites are flaky people that jump around and are unreliable but that is not what I’ve seen. We are architects, and doctors, CEOs, and famous artists. Multipotentialites can do incredible work. Don’t buy into the idea that we are the jack of all trades master of none. It’s totally possible to nail this stuff and thrive.
Scott Barlow: Absolutely love it. And completely agree with it. I’m biased because I fall into that category. I appreciate you making the time. Thank you so much! I’m excited to 1) see how the book does and 2) keep me posted on how things are going.
Emilie Wapnick: Absolutely thank you so much for having me Scott.
Scott Barlow: Hey, thank you everybody for hanging out with us. Feel free to let us know what you thought or reach out to Emilie. Anything else you need, you know where I am and our team is. See you all later. Have a great one!
Download the Episode Transcript
Buy Emilie's Book and Get a Bonus! Just Upload Your Receipt!