Career Building: Why It’s Time to Break Free from the Single-career Mentality

“What do you do?” This is a commonly asked question at parties, weddings and other settings in which we meet strangers. And usually the response is a simple
description of our career: lawyer, banker, engineer, etc.

We use such one-word answers because they’re easy, but what if they are also holding us back from our potential by reinforcing the idea that we are defined
by a single career? Sure, you may work full time as a banker or an HR manager, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have interests and skills outside this
one field.

Do you daydream about working in a different field? If so, what’s holding you back? What if embarking on a second (or third or fourth) career is not only
possible, but also has the potential to leave you feeling more fulfilled and successful?

The case for multiple careers

In a Harvard Business Review article entitled “ Why You Should Have (at Least) Two Careers”, author Kabir Sehgal makes the case for pursuing our interests and branching out beyond the typical single-career trajectory.

Drawing examples from his own experiences as a corporate strategist, author, record producer and US Navy Reserve officer, Sehgal illustrates three advantages
of having more than one career:

1. Subsidized learning. Most careers have a steep learning curve, and some also require an investment in training, equipment or other
resources. However, with an existing career to pay the bills while kickstarting your new career, you can reduce the risk and subsidize the process
of getting your second gig underway.

2. Diverse connections. Most workplaces and professions can turn into little bubbles where you end up surrounded by similar people with
similar backgrounds. Having more than one career can expand your world and bring a greater diversity of people into your life, which can have both
social and professional benefits.

3. Fresh perspectives. If you ask a group of teachers to solve a problem, there’s a good chance they’ll adopt similar thinking patterns to address the challenge. However, with more than one career, you can tap into different perspectives and use these to become better at spotting opportunities for innovation.

Embracing fresh challenges

Having more than one career may not be feasible for some, and it may not appeal to everyone. Yet as Sehgal illustrates, there are compelling reasons for those who choose to go down this path.

On one hand, he notes the power of curiosity to drive success in new career areas. On the other hand, he also cites the risk of burnout and regret among those who toil away in one career when their mind yearns for fresh challenges.

There is no guarantee that you’ll achieve success in the other career(s) you choose to pursue. However, there’s a good chance that you’ll achieve satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment from giving it a go and refusing to allow yourself to be constrained by the traditional one-career life.

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