The Multi-Hyphen Career – How Learning a Range of Skills Can Make You an Expert?

These days, many people are getting more and more troubled when asked what they do for a living and it’s not for the lack of work that their doing. What these individuals are usually pursuing is what we might call a multi-hyphen career.

What sort of a career path is that?

Basically, that’s a career that cannot be explained with just one job title. Meaning that multiple roles can be hyphenated.

When consulting a dictionary, one can find that a multi-hyphenate is a person with several professions or skills.

A remote forerunner of this type of individual would be a so-called Renaissance man, a polymath whose expertise spans a significant number of various subject areas. A genius Leonardo Da Vinci is usually referred to as the very first Renaissance man.

Never the less, in modern times and with the amount of information and easy access to it, it is far more difficult to be a Renaissance man that it was further you go back in history. The fields explored in ancient and somewhat more recent history were far less advanced than they are today.

Nowadays, being a multi-hyphenate can be slightly tricky to manage, as each job they juggle might be different, requiring a variable amount of time dedicated to it. Therefore a high level of organization and adaptability is required to cope with this multi-hyphen method of providing everyday life’s resources.

Emma Gannon’s 2018 book ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’ is written with most freelancers on the author’s mind. People around the world, especially those in need of any validation for the work they do, just hit it off with this book. No wonder it bears The Sunday Times business bestseller title. As Gannon puts it:

When a person has no fixed position of work but instead works on multiple projects simultaneously, he or she can easily be an expert in a few different fields. 

Up to a few years ago, this type of career would usually raise many eyebrows. However, tables have turned and many people rail against hyper-specialization. It’s slowly but surely becoming a trend now to be skilled at many things, as expertise in one domain actually fuels excellence in another.

Ryan Holiday put it nicely:

Wisdom is fungible. The more you have of it — regardless of where you got it — the more places you can apply it.

The opinion that is getting more and more popular is that specialists are becoming so narrow that they started developing worse judgment about the world as they accumulate knowledge from one field only.

The keyword to avoid this trap is transfer.

One should be able to wisely take knowledge and skills from other fields of interest and apply them to a situation they have not faced before. For this, one must accumulate a gran variety of situations so later, they could be in power to form a broader conceptual model called “making connections” knowledge.

Only then, it is possible to wield flexibly in new situations.

Another benefit of mastering different careers and fields is a solid prospect of working intensely without burning out. By having a variety of personal and professional interests you can bypass a specialization a mastery requires and allow yourself to broaden your horizons while keeping your mind curious, busy and always fueled with some fresh approaches and ideas.

Is the multi-hyphen career of the future?

OK, the rules of work have changed and we all must admit and accept it. The main “culprit” for that is definitely technology.  It redesigned and reshaped the lives of professionals all around the globe and now, we can make money on our terms. We have the luxury to work wherever and whenever we want and nobody expects us to stick to one profession our whole life.

Just take a look at millennials. They are multi-skilled and they cherish and nurture their individualism above everything else.

The very idea of multiple careers is no longer seen as unreliable or indecisive. The skills required by the modern-day business world tend to be easily transferable, easily monetized, and allowing many to pursue multiple career paths simultaneously.

Research by Ernst & Young shows that flexibility is the number one driver of retention, increasing employee engagement by 11%.  Some companies are even offering employees a chance to go on “life leave” or work part-time.

Let us not ignore the financial aspect of this change.

A happy worker is more efficient and being happy has to do everything with being able to pursue our personal freedom and fulfill all of our potentials. Plus, having an employee skilled in many fields does not make things more complicated. On the contrary.

He or she will be able to switch between different types of solutions for a certain problem, to improvise easily and to apply a diverse knowledge onto many issues within his or her position. And the final result is way better results. And that is all that counts.

So, let us throw some advice on how to be better in multi-hyphening:

  • Of course, it’s all about balance. It is essential. Never fail to draw a line between work and play. It’s more than OK to be curious and experiment with various lines of knowledge as long as you truly enjoy it. Don’t force it just for form’s sake. It will never work.
  • Be patient. It takes time to keep up with all the new ideas and possibilities that come with pursuing knowledge in various fields. It will all come to its place, no worries. Just stay true and determined.
  • Be brave. This thing takes a lot of courage and self-belief, and remember – even if it doesn’t work out in the end, at least you tried.
  • Always work on yourself. That’s the whole point. This is a continuous process and you must be prepared for that.
  • Choose your projects. Try not to accept every offer that comes your way, be wise and listen to your guts.
  • Self-promote big time. Even though this might be a difficult one at first, sharing what you’ve learned so far is a great way of building a network of people that work just as hard as you do.

In the end, being a multi-hyphenate is all about respecting yourself, your work and skills while charging correctly for your time and effort. Life is too short to waste any potentials we might have. It’s a part of human nature to be curious and to master new things. The rule that you should retire after dedicating your entire life to a single profession – is old news. Stay tuned and expand your knowledge and skills. It can only bring good things coming your way.

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