Celebrating the Generalist: Societys' Wild Card
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
We are headed into a new school year (if you are a student) and a new season of hiring (if you are a professional); filled with fresh possibilities! The only "problem" is that you still cannot decide on your major or your career. No stress. I have just the thing for you!
As you move into a new season, you might be wondering what steps you can take to elevate both your educational and professional experiences. The trouble with that, however, may be that you do not quite know what your focus should be on. If you are having difficulty deciding how to plan your educational and/or professional pathway, you may want to consider the possibility that perhaps choosing "the one" is not the answer for you.
The Profile: Is this you?
While you may run into individuals who know exactly what they want to pursue and how exactly to get there, or, you may run into people who decide to pivot into another career, you still do not quite know where to even start. You have attempted to stick to one pathway but that feels wrong to you, or you have changed careers so much you may be coming off as someone who cannot commit. What you do know, however, is that you enjoy the freedom and possibility of pursuing more than one topic, different professional roles and/or enrolling yourself in a diverse range of classes.
Any conventional options?
Academia may seem attractive to you as you will have the opportunity to research several facets of your research question, but you are researching one topic; one question. Not to mention the studies that show the higher up you go in the academic ladder; the greater damage to your mental well-being. Though, it still may be a good fit should all other things align.
Embracing the unconventional:
But what if academia is not an option? After all, graduate education is still nested within the higher-ed sector, which is based on a linear model; meant to somehow train people for a non-linear world (whole other topic but I hope I got your attention *wink wink*). Okay so, yes. What happens if graduate education is not for you? Well, then you have a tricky path to walk down. But I also suspect that you have a wild card in your pocket: YOU. You most likely possess within you the necessary creativity to figure out how you want to connect the different topics and ideas together to create the life and/or career you want; not around specialization, but rather, of generalization. So here are some actionable steps I have for you to help you figure out what that pathway may be and how it may look like:
1. Stick to who you are
Your perspective and the lens you bring to conversations are unique to you. That is your gift; that is your value. Take part in group discussions and/or write about things and topics that matter to you. Try to receive and/or listen for feedback from other people. This will be critical to you in helping you understand, precisely, the unique perspective you are bringing to conversations and will allow you to nurture your uniqueness
2. Don’t quit learning about all the things
If both microfluidics and illustration interest you, do not force yourself to choose between the two because I can guarantee you that you can find connections between the two which may help you down the road. In fact, there is a connection between the two examples I just gave. Do you what know what they are?
3. Run your own research program
Half the battle is getting a sense of the nature of the topics you are interested in and breaking that down with your unique lens. Developing and directing the trajectory of your own research will provide to you insight and clarity. Follow your intuition and learn about topics and people even when you are not sure how they will connect
4. Find your people
I know. So annoying. Because every post tells you to do this. But when I tell you to "find your people", I am not necessarily telling you to find like-minded people per se. I am telling you to find people who accept and value your thirst for different types of knowledge and information and who will not be thrown off by having conversations about the food chain one day and evolutionary psychology the next
Your role in the world:
Nurturing your ability to create links and connections between ideas will prove to be an invaluable and critical tool. Western society, as it stands right now, is not made for people like you but that does not mean that what you bring to the table is not needed because I cannot tell you enough how far from the truth that is. In fact, with the way work and discussions on the future of work are going, people like you are exactly what the world will need; you are the worlds' wild card.
If you need help organizing your interests and/or connecting your ideas, feel free to reach to out through this page of the site.
Wishing you luck and prosperity in your journey!
P.S: A polymath is a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning.
P.P.S: Famous Polymaths:
Leonardo da Vinci