In Praise of The Multihyphenate

Image of Sara Ruffin Costello via Domaine.

I was perusing Sara Ruffin Costello's website recently, ogling some of her lovely work, when I clicked over to her "About" page and found myself pondering the definition of a "career." This mental tangent was set in motion after reading Costello's description of herself as a writer-editor-television personality-style consultant-decorator-developer-preservationist. Friends, that is some serious action... I felt tired just reading it.

Then again, for a majority of my work life, I was pretty conservative about my idea of what constitutes a career. My general thinking through college (and even during a bulk of the years post) was that you got to be one thing (or at least one thing at a time) -- an editor or a designer or a doctor or a director of online marketing, if you will. And that anything you did outside of your single-focused career was a "hobby." I realize this is antiquated thinking, but remember I'm almost 40, my coming of age occurred pre-blogs, pre-Internet even (oh and we walked to school, both ways, uphill, in the snow), so the idea of wearing multiple hats, and getting paid for wearing them, was something that felt a bit, well, not real.

But the interwebs just seemed to turn this whole thing on it's head, didn't it? Now a hefty portion of my friends are full-blown multi-hyphenates. And, somehow, after 14 years proudly sporting one title, I now find myself among them, with my own little "About" blurb on this very blog professing me to be six different things, five of which I actually get paid to do.

The trick in this new multi-enterprise world is how to do all of these various things well (or at least not shittily); how to avoid the trap of "jack of all trades, master of none;" how to quickly switch focus without missing a beat. I wish I could say I have the answer...But frankly I'm not sure there is one. In the meantime, I'm just plugging along, working the hell out of my to-do list, following my gut, commiserating with my peers over (copious) cocktails, and (when all else fails) asking myself, "What Would Sara Do."

Who's with me?


Anonymous said...

i am with you!

i talk about this often, especially the part about being "one" thing and how in school i was taught that you study and train to be one thing for the rest of your life, but really that is so not practical or real in today's world. i think you can have multiple careers, some one at a time and some all at once. i don't have kids, but i always say that i would never push that old school mentality on them if i did decide to go that route.

i think it's a constant struggle to do all of our things well - totally with you on that, too! but i like your solutions and i think they're smart, especially the following your gut. and the cocktails, of course. ; )

love this post, joslyn! xo

Hannah Maple said...

It's such an interesting and difficult balance to achieve, but so rewarding when you do! I'm a dreamer...always scheming up a new venture to pursue...yet always in fear that I'll stretch myself too far and too thin. What an inspiration both you and SRC are. Thank you for sharing!

Elsa May said...

Although it can feel overwhelming that's what I love about this day and age (ugh that makes me sound old :) I love the fact that it's not about having one career, or job, or role, and that passions, hobbies, etc can morph into a 'job' or become part of your identity. I've always held my father up as the master of this - he has done (and continues to do) so many things in his life in the way of work, interests, dreams, etc - some have worked better than others but he has had (and continues to have) such a rich and fulfilling life. We have always been encouraged to pursue our dreams and interests, change 'career' mid stream, try new things, or just switch it up, which has been one of the best life lessons ever.
ps: I love popping in to catch up on your blog, and end up spending hours looking at all the wonderfully inspiring links you post :)

Hilary said...

What a great topic!! I'm totally with you. There's so much to talk about and think about here. In the age of blogging and self-taught, self-developed skills, a person can build themselves into quite the niche professional!