How to have multiple careers

p 1 how to have and explain a career with multiple paths

After I did the Profession Cruising exams in tenth grade, I all the time received the impression I had to choose one profession and keep it up. In fact, I don’t keep in mind a lot concerning the outcomes I received—these exams sucked anyway!—and I undoubtedly don’t keep in mind them telling me that I may add a hyphen, or a slash, and Frankenstein the careers up.

Because it seems, I may! My dad and mom all the time instructed me I used to be a generalist, explaining I’d have to work onerous to specialize, which was exceptionally true for his or her technology. However nowadays, being a generalist has its perks. It’s the position of the multi-hyphenate. The slash profession. The polymath. The talent stack. The multi-path career. The gig financial system. No matter you need to name it, it’s right here.

How to describe a multi-hyphenate profession

Since I by no means actually needed to have a standard “mono-path” profession, that’s not what I did. Sadly, I additionally tried, earnestly, to clarify this to whomever I used to be speaking to. When somebody requested me politely, “So, what do you do?” early in my profession, I’d strive to easy an earnest rationalization over:

“I work a day job in communications at Xtreme Labs, I used to be additionally interviewing recording artists, and freelance copywriting for different tech corporations, and writing for publications. I didn’t make any of these items my full-time job.”

However to most individuals who listened to me, it most likely sounded extra like this:

“I work at blah blah blah Xtreme Labs, blah blah blah Ryan Lewis, blah blah blah tech corporations, and blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah meaningless jargon.”

I used to be technically a tech communications-interviewer-copywriter-writer, however that sounded even sillier than it reads. Finally, I smartened up and simply stated:

“Most of my time, I’m working at an organization that makes apps—Xtreme Labs—and I’m doing another tasks exterior of that.”

Typically we talked concerning the tasks, however more often than not the dialog moved on—what they did, what I loved writing about, why I solely wore black t-shirts, and so on.

How to plan a multi-hyphenate profession

When interviewers requested Donald Glover how he was juggling his careers as a screenwriter-actor-comedian-recording artist, I keep in mind listening to him reply—it’s all one factor. Even after hours of analysis, I can’t discover a supply for it. However, the energy of the quote made it too good for me not to point out.

I’ve been slowly determining my factor, too. At some factors, it may really feel complicated. I might name it writing, however there are different phrases for it too: modifying, communications, world-building, advertising, promotion. On the finish of the day, it’s creating good tales and telling them.

Confusion, in fact, extends past simply my craft, however into the enterprise. For instance, there’s this narrative that the gig financial system is a nasty factor—it takes away standard stability, advantages, and such away from staff. That’s true for a lot of staff in lots of areas of the gig financial system—like labor safety for meals and supply staff. We actually want extra regulation there.


For the needs of this text, working two or three totally different jobs out of necessity could be very totally different from what I’m calling a multi-hyphenate or slash profession, maybe simply as totally different as beginning a standard comfort retailer is to a funded tech startup. However a multi-hyphenate does, on this article, normally work with multiple organizations.

As for these multi-hyphenate careers, like angel traders, and fractional leaders and consultants—and even freelance writers, artists, and graphic designers—the chances are way more open. These individuals really could have chosen to work within the so-called gig financial system, as a result of they have extra freedom and comparable pay. Or possibly they make much more cash from engaged on a challenge foundation. Naval Ravikant says, “Wealthy individuals receives a commission by the challenge and pay by the hour.”

You want to be taught very totally different abilities

If you would like to thrive as a multi-hyphenate, you’ll want to discover methods of bundling your skills together. The extra unconventional the mix, the extra of a multi-hyphenate you’ll be seen as. By extension, which means you’ll additionally want to get good at studying new abilities. For instance, the “entrepreneur” is a traditional instance of the multi-hyphenate. The position could contain a ton of various abilities, however as Glover describes, it actually is all one factor. From Applied Divinity Studies:

“A small enterprise proprietor who manages their very own books, handles gross sales, and manufactures their product just isn’t thought of a polymath, regardless of how distinct these fields is perhaps. Computational social scientists usually are not thought of polymaths, neither is an OnlyFans creator who single-handedly runs all the pieces from advertising to modeling, nor a translator who has to grasp historical Greek, dive deeply into historic context, and in addition be an important poet in their very own proper…

Studying these abilities will most likely profit your profession. Simply perceive that nobody has ever been hailed as a polymath as a result of they’re good at each communication and administration. They’re simply thought of mainly competent at their job.”

For instance, in my early years, I used to be referred to as a contract author. Then, a employees author for Lifehacker, in addition to a content material marketer. Even a publicist, to some. Then a one-person company. Then an editor at Shopify Plus and QuickBooks. And at the moment, thanks to my distinctive talent units and experiences, I’ve targeted my editorial studio on technical communications. That will change in 18 months, or possibly even sooner, however that’s what we’re targeted on for now.

One of many distinct providers my editorial studio Wonder Shuttle provides is collaborative writing. Our staff combines our technical experience with interviewing abilities with abilities in writing and modifying, to help specialists who don’t have the talent of writing. This sounds easy sufficient—till you discover the variety of freelance writers who don’t like asking questions or answering them, who don’t know and aren’t concerned with know-how, and who’re really expert on the crafts of writing and modifying. (My staff normally hires self-employed skilled journalists.) For good measure, we additionally provide natural promotion into our service, one thing that units us aside from sufficient technical writers.

Once more, this isn’t a everlasting enterprise place. When you’re studying this in 2023, the Surprise Shuttle web site will, hopefully, be onto one thing new. Few issues on this world are everlasting; even Shopify wants to undergo a storytelling and execution pivot (from ecommerce to entrepreneurship).

I might really say my abilities aren’t that totally different—I’m not a lumberjack-data scientist-DJ. However as a result of all of them depend on working with phrases (e.g., writing, modifying, language) or getting consideration (e.g., natural advertising, media relations, working with and constructing audiences), I can rapidly zoom out and in of particular disciplines and make new mixtures primarily based on what I see individuals discovering helpful.

There’s a lot extra I’ve been that means to write concerning the matter of a multi-hyphenate profession within the gig financial system. Lately, I write at this weblog and at Medium. I authored a book and am engaged on a revised model. I counsel companies on their engineering communications. If I have been up to it, I’d name myself a blogger-author-editor-advisor-consultant. But it surely sounds complicated (and foolish!), so I simply name myself an creator or an advisor, relying on who’s asking.

Hopefully, you get an thought of what it’s like working as a multi-hyphenate, or a slash-career. It’s extremely rewarding and fulfilling. But it surely’s additionally fully totally different from a standard profession path. That studying is a part of residing an fascinating life—it’s not straightforward, and that’s the purpose!
When you’re concerned with constructing out your multi-hyphenate profession, you want to try Marci Alboher’s One Person-Multiple Careers: A Guide to Slash Careers, which I advisable in my Best of Books newsletter.

Herbert Lui is the creator of Creative Doing, a e book of fifty prompts that unblock creativity to your work, interest, or subsequent profession. He writes a newsletter that shares three nice books each month. He’s the editorial director at WorkOS and Wonder Shuttle.