Careers. They’re funny ol’ things, aren’t they? When you’re little, you’re asked what you want to be when you grow up. Then, when you’re older, you’re told to be a bit more ‘realistic’ with that dream. And work your ass off. You need the grades to do the course, then you’re expected to work for free to get the experience, before starting on a salary which just about pays the bills, on top of a hefty student loan and overdraft. Lucky you!
But it’s not all doom and gloom. We’re fortunate that modern working life allows for greater flexibility than even as recently as ten years ago. And we’re no longer expected to stay in the same industry for 40+ years. Where previously someone might start in a junior role at a company and steadily work their way up, our careers are no longer linear. We’re embracing the many strings we have to our bows and more of us are working on our own terms than ever before.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer of some description. I was quite the creative writer as a child then, in my teens, I started spending more time watching films than reading books and fancied myself as the next Mark Kermode. Less than a year after graduating, with a First in Writing for the Media, I realised I wasn’t going to make a living writing about film (or anything) in Cornwall, did a PGCE, then found myself working in marketing, an industry I’ve now been in for over eight years. Weird, huh?
My journalism training gave me a solid grounding for my marketing career, as I know my way around a press release and how to write engaging copy. Plus my time teaching A Level Media Studies gave me relevant experience for my day job, as the charity I work for is student-facing. Not only that, the skills I develop at work can be translated to this here blog, as we all know that bloggers aren’t just bloggers. We’re editors, social media managers, photographers, SEO specialists and more.
It’s easy to assume that changing careers multiple times means some of this training or experience was a waste of time but it’s actually made me more employable. According to Emma Gannon’s The Multi-Hyphen Method, ‘You are a career chameleon, changing and moulding yourself to different projects‘.
Subtitled ‘Work less, create more, and design a career that works for you’, The Multi-Hyphen Method celebrates our new-found ability to shape our own careers. And it’s not just about creating niche roles which complement our diverse interests – we can set our own hours too!
Flexible working used to be synonymous with eye rolls and scowls as working mums left the office ‘early’ in order to look after the family. These days it’s an option more and more people are exploring, regardless of their family situation. Did you know that if you’ve been working for the same employer for at least 26 continuous weeks you are entitled to ask for flexible working? How much more could you achieve if you had a day a week to work from home, uninterrupted? Or if you could start earlier, when you’re most productive, and leave the office earlier so you’re there for the school run? Or perhaps you’d like an extra afternoon or a day off a week to explore a side project? It’s time we started asking for what we want (what we really, really want). ‘Flexibility is also about productivity, because when the person is at the centre of their own schedule, they can get more done‘.
I’ve spent the last four years trying to balance a work life, home life, social life, and my own goals and dreams. To say that these scales are not balanced would be a huge understatement. I have a reasonably stress-free day job, working 17.5 hours a week over three days. But throw in a commute which totals almost two hours door-to-door, plus a three year old, a blog, and all the usual chores and life admin, you can see why I’ve not been able to focus on my own wellbeing. Because it’s not just about having that flexibility, it’s also about using that time wisely.
I’m learning to make the most of the small pockets of time I get. I’d love to be able to tick everything off the to do list when the kid is asleep but the reality is I’m fucking knackered and am often asleep at 8pm myself. The routine of 6.15am alarm calls for work means that, even on a day off, I’m awake and alert early. I’ve started hitting the office for an hour first thing rather than staring at the ceiling and it’s amazing what I get done.
But am I successful? Success means different things to different people and one of my key takeaways from this book is that you need to define your own version of success – and stop comparing yourself to others:
‘Having a multi-hyphenate career innately means you are forced to create your own definition of success and you can’t directly compare yourself to others… It’s harder to compare yourself to others when you are owning your own path, your own set-up, your own hyphens. it’s harder to compare when your path and career ladders look so different to other peoples. it’s harder to compare when there’s not one idea of success, or one ladder for all. See people as inspirational rather than a direct comparison. Allow yourself to be inspired by others and learn from them.’
My version of success is very modest compared to most and I’ve learned to value feelings more than traditional experiences. It’s reflective of my 2019 goals, in that I want to feel creative, challenged and rested. I want to be able to do my day job, be there for my family, have regular time to write for myself, and avoid burnout.
‘Self-care can come in many forms and all that matters is that you are doing something that is purely for yourself and your own mental health or relaxation. It looks different to all of us, but allowing yourself time for something that sits outside of work and home to-do lists feels quite empowering and nourishing for the mind. Doing something that we enjoy regularly isn’t selfish or self-indulgent it’s actually crucial to our overall well-being.’
The Multi-Hyphen Method isn’t a career or self-help book to encourage you to quit your job and launch your own business without a plan, or even to turn your hobby into a money-maker. It’s about allowing time for the areas of our lives which bring us joy, making the most of our skills, and embracing/creating opportunities. ‘A side-project doesn’t have to mean world domination or a global business plan, but it does mean making time for more self-care, or building and enjoying learning new skills on the side‘.
Last month I booked a couple of days of annual leave to attend some local creative workshops – and it felt amazing! I was able to meet new people, develop my skills and I felt so empowered to spend more time working on my hyphens. Now I just need to work on my energy levels and time management. Wish me luck!
Buy The Multi-Hyphen Method on Amazon (affiliate link)