Last week, I re-read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. In it, she mentions Marci Alboher’s book One Person / Multiple Careers and I decided to look it. The book’s blurb states that it is ’essential reading for anyone who is loathe to answer “What do you do?” with a singular definition’. Whilst I would hesitate to use the word loathe, I certainly struggle to answer this question. Usually I just say that I’m a historian, which is true but doesn’t quite seem to really reflect how I spend a lot of my time or the work that I identify with.
Reading One Person, which I did in two straight sittings, I realized that I’m not alone in my dilemma. Lots of people feel similarly and others have forged a path, with the book drawing on these examples to provide some useful tips and pointers for developing multiple careers. Crucially, Alboher doesn’t offer a ‘one size fits all’ solution. On the contrary, she emphasizes the varied ways in which multiple careers can develop and the different forms that they can take.
It was inspiring to read about others’ experiences. It was also fascinating to learn about people’s self-definitions. In particular, I was intrigued by those who identify most strongly with activities that don’t actually pay, or aren’t the means by which they earn their living. I’ve always considered these areas of my life as more like hobbies, but what if they form part of what one views as one’s life’s work? What if those things are what we were born to do, and the stuff we are paid for is just a way to cover the bills? What effect would re-defining them have?
As if on cue, a conversation with my five year old niece in the last few days revealed that she thought my Quaker meeting is where I go when I am at work. An interesting perspective that added to my sense of needing to rethink and redefine how I classify different aspects of my life. I initially assumed this would involve exploring what I want to do, but maybe reconsidering what I do already would be equally as enlightening. Rather than viewing multiple careers as something I’m striving towards, maybe I’ll see that it is already my way of working.