What do you want to be when you grow up?
I don’t remember how I answered that question as a youngster. Probably something cute and acceptable. But I always felt like there were just too many possibilities to choose from and that life couldn’t possibly be long enough to let me experience them all.
When I was nine years old, I opened a café out of my parents’ kitchen and charged my family to prepare and serve them snacks. I was good at the food prep, quick with the delivery, creative with the menus, and best at managing the books. I loved it all.
At high school, my favourite subjects were visual art and accounting. An unusual pairing, but I was pretty good at both. When it came time to choose my next path, my university preferences were interior design and business accounting.
I ended up choosing accounting, but not for long. One semester into my degree and I changed majors to marketing. It seemed more creative and fun than crunching numbers. I chose electives like retail marketing (with the dream of opening a shoe store), event management (because I wanted to be in charge of a big event) and sports marketing (with the goal of being the first female board member of an NRL club).
I shelved the shoe store dream (for now anyway) and worked in sports marketing, then in public relations, and broader communications. I worked in law firms and in charities. I stayed in some jobs for six months, others for three or four years. I was made redundant, I took on contracts, and I quit jobs with nothing else lined up. I even took a ‘work sabbatical’ and lived the leisurely life in the south of France.
When I couldn’t get out of an industry I no longer wanted to be in, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Science to become a nutritionist. I studied hard, completed two-thirds of the degree and had a solid GPA. But I let that go too.
My passions led me here
My resume reflects a varied professional background; not as varied as some, but I’ve certainly held more position titles than many my age. I followed my passions and my instincts at every turn. When I knew an organisation or role wasn’t right for me, I jumped as far from it as I could. Even when others told me to stay put for security or because it was a great job, I left.
I never gave this pattern much thought, always believing I’d end up on my feet, and I usually did. Mostly because I was open to whatever came next. But it certainly wasn’t common among my circles to swing from one monkey bar to the next so callously.
“A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits”
…and yet our culture is such that we aren’t encouraged to pursue so many different avenues. Instead, climbing the ladder usually means working your way up in one or two companies, or building on your knowledge and experience in a specific field.
But where would I be if I had abided by this notion that I’m meant to pick something – one thing – and specialise in that? Certainly not where I am today.
Here’s why it’s a good thing
Emilie describes multipotentialites as idea synthesizers, rapid learners and adaptable. Here’s how I see these superpowers in myself and my work:
Idea synthesis is the concept of combining multiple fields to create something new. While it’s not a new concept per se, I created my own freelance writing business out of my love of business and writing. I also like to write about health, parenting and travel because they are other interests of mine.
Rapid learning is about going all-in, head (or heart) first with our interests. We multipotentialites dive right in and learn everything we can. I am a researcher by nature. When I’m interested in something or have a question that I’m pondering, I’ll follow it down the rabbit hole. Having this trait certainly helps when I’m interviewing for a feature or reading up on a topic for a content marketing piece.
Adaptability is being able to morph into whatever role we need to play in a situation. I’ve lead group projects and I’ve been directed by others. I love working at home on my own, but I can also work one-on-one with a client or in an agency or other team environment, because I’m adaptable.
Embrace your many passions. Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life. And perhaps more importantly — multipotentialites, the world needs us.
– Emilie Wapnick
I’m still trying to work out what I’ll be when I grow up, but one thing I now know is that I don’t just have to choose one thing.