(Image of Elizabeth Moss in 'Mad Men')
First off let me tell you that I'm a big fan of Emma Gannon. I first met her when I was in my old research job and she appeared on a panel we were running all about 'The Imposter Syndrome'. I was bowled over by her confidence. She made me feel a bit insecure but she was positive, had great advice on how to battle inner demons and I came away thinking WOW that woman is pretty cool.
Fast forward a bit and I've bumped into her a couple more times. Recently I bought her book - 'The Multi-Hyphen Method: Work less, create more, and design a career that works for you'. I was attracted to it because I'm going through a transition myself - moving from a single track career where I did one thing all day to a career where I seem to be doing different things all the time (and feeling disorientated and unable to position myself). Gannon's point is that having MANY TALENTS is a good thing that should be celebrated. She points out that we'll need to be more nimble and flexible if we want to cope and thrive in the modern work economy.
In my old job I was criticised for trying to change my role and focus on different things. The message was clearly that I was expected to continue doing what I'd always done. Some of this was practical (I needed to generate business) but some of it was the kind of rigidity that comes with corporate work structures. There is oftentimes an inability to appreciate a new opportunity (especially if the idea comes from someone who has been around a long time). I often observed how my millennial colleagues were more demanding- they wanted their roles to change all the time- they continously asked for variety and challenges. There was a lot of puzzlement about this (don't they know how lucky they are?) when really it makes sense.
Who really wants to know how each work day is going to pan out from beginning to end? Who really wants to keep on repeating the same things over and over?
Jobs for life will no longer exist in the future, and on top of this we're not satisfied with doing the same thing day in day out. So what did I think of the book? Well first off it's very good. I like the fact that the language is positive and it isn't focused on millennials and Gen Z (though there are more references to these in there). For me as a Gen X'er I still have the same desire to change direction and try and forge something that works better for me. I remember writing a piece a while ago about Mums and flexible working and a guy without children got in touch and said - this is exactly what I want too! It took me longer to come the conclusion that I needed to change course but I can strongly identify with the need to work for myself, not be dictated to by 'the man' and work flexibly (which of course becomes more and more important when you have a child and try and fit your work around them).
Many Gen X'ers were born into a funny time. My parents schooled me that I should look for a job that was dependable, stable and would help me get on the property ladder. We didn't have much money and they were worried about my financial future. These are all good points and it remains to be seen how lucrative a multi-hyphen career can (I earn far less now than I ever did in my corporate job). I defintely feel happier though. I witnessed many colleagues who were on enormous salaries who were desperately unhappy. They were trapped in a certain lifestyle where they bought stuff just to feel better about themselves.
I like the fact that the Gannon's book has lots of facts on how the workplace is changing, how freelancing is becoming more normalised, how we demand more from work than ever before (it's not just about a good pay check anymore) but also has some practical tips on how to start building in some new career paths. I have always strongly believed in the 'side hustle' and how it's never a good idea to quit your job without any Plan B in place (unless you come from a wealthy family and then you can do whatever you want of course). She also talks about how our lives are becoming more and more 'blended' in terms of work versus life and how it's increasingly important to recognise the times when you're ON. Technology plays a massive role in this and the fact that we can be on Instagram scrolling for forty minutes and it might be work or it might be a massive waste of time.
I remember talking to business woman Kemi Telford at an event once and she told me that she avoids mindless scrolling and only goes on Instagram with a specific purpose. This is something that I'm trying to work on as I feel that social media is a draining influence if I'm not using it properly (so it's all about stopping and thinking WHY am I doing this right now and how is it making me feel?)
Anyway, I definitely recommend the book to any people struggling with how to define themselves, those that are unhappy in their current jobs and those who wonder whether 'different fingers in different pies' is a good thing. One of the things Gannon points out is how hard it is to describe yourself when you have a 'multi-hyphenate' job title. It can come across as flaky/schizophrenic and where do you put the emphasis?
For me I can be a content creator, writer, researcher, editor, event panellist, broadcaster and bad hip-hop dancer. But we don't live with one-dimensional personalities either. I'm grumpy, love cats, am OCD about crumbs on the floor, love cleaning the bathroom but have sluttish cupboad etiquette. I like 'Love Island' (or maybe not like but can see I'm becoming addicted) but can also sit through a two hour documentary on BBC 4 about modern art. My Linkedin profile looks bonkers and I worry what potential clients will think about the fact that I'm involved in a sex podcast but also research ideas for frozen potato waffles.
It's an interesting time.
The reality is that this will become more the norm. Having more than one string to your bow makes you a useful person. It isn't a weakness. I am starting to recognise this - I'm actually jealous of my millenial friends who will potentially spend more time doing the things they love (rather than the things they feel they ought to do which was my story for a long time).
There's a great quote from Freddie Harrel, fashion entrepeneur which kicks off one of the chapters. In it he says:
'You are not one person! But dozens, hundreds of personalities! But boy you might never meet all of them! We try so hard to fit into boxes, that we end up supressing some and we end up living the wrong lives.'
I was definitely the person living the 'wrong life' for a while. Now I'm hoping in my mid-forties, I can finally find the right one.