Opinion: Why you don’t have to settle for one career

While some people come out of their mother’s womb with a calling attached to their umbilical, some of us struggle with the decision to choose a single calling even after a second degree.

The indecisiveness is not because we don’t know what we want to do with our lives but we are just too gifted to be strait-jacketed into one career for the rest of our temporal existence.

However, it is quite common to find our parents, guardians, teachers and the larger society baffle us with their expectations, wishes and goals. Our parents want us to be doctors and lawyers whereas we also want to write like Jane Austen and paint like Michael Angelo.

Our teachers think we will make good engineers but we also know how to take the best photographs ever seen. In fact, some of us know how to sing till angels lose consciousness but we also take delight in nursing people till their wounds heal.

These types of people are called multipotentialites. They are individuals with myriad potentials and interests to pursue more than one career.

Multipotentialites do not have one true calling. They have various interests across many domains and can excel in more than one profession. They should not be confused with career nomads who wander aimlessly from one job or career to another; they are just overwhelmingly blessed with an insatiable curiosity and the hunger to keep learning.

With an agenda to broaden their horizons, they always explore new intellectual worlds and break into different related or unrelated career frontiers. These people are usually knowledgeable in several things and can pursue their endeavours successively or concurrently.

Multi-potentiality has its roots in renaissance humanism, a movement that was birthed in Europe (precisely Italy) in the 16th century. Renaissance humanism centred on fostering broad-based literacy of the citizenry by encouraging the study of humanities: grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy.

Extensive scholarship was sought in all intellectual terrains and people developed skills and capacities in all areas of knowledge. In the medieval times, the Renaissance man was seen as that individual who was highly educated and adept in a wide variety of subjects and careers.

Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Leonardo Da Vinci, Karl Marx, Maya Angelou, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson are some perfect examples of multipotentialites.

The problem multipotentialites face in this part of the world is that the society is accustomed to the idea of one person-one career. The expectation is to specialise in one field, especially a field where there is an assurance of job security and money-making opportunities.

There is little emphasis on intellectual pursuit for the sake of societal impact, personal development and fulfillment. So for a multipotentialite who has interests in many careers or knowledge in many fields, such a person is labelled a career-jumper; the no-focus-jack-of-all-trade-master-of-none individual.

The society believes it is an anomaly to aspire to be several things in life; therefore the multi-gifted is pressured into choosing a single career. Consequently, depression and a lack of fulfillment set in and the world-changing contribution a multipotentialite could have made in other fields is deterred.

But who says you have to choose one calling? In this rapidly changing world of today, the talent and creativity of a multipotentialite is needed for survival. While the specialist is the one with a depth of knowledge and expertise in a chosen field, the multipotentialite is the one with a breath of knowledge in several fields. Good teams always have the best of both worlds.

This piece was inspired by Emilie Wapnick’s Ted Talk.


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Adedapo Adebajo is strategic planner, a researcher, a writer, a musician, a sociologist, a thinker, an aspiring academic and he still aspire to be many other things.

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