How to combine many skills and interests to move up in your career


  • Technology has modified what it takes to thrive at work, and it is not sufficient to be good at only one particular factor.
  • Individuals who combine a number of experience or skills, referred to as “polymaths” or “multipotentialites,” have a tendency to be modern in their mind-set and can leverage that to enhance their incomes energy and advance their careers.
  • Experts say you must embrace your interests and carve out your personal position, promote your specialised strengths earlier than proving your diversified experience, and goal firms that worth your multidisciplinary views.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

The company world has historically rewarded those that specialize in a specific talent or subject. In many workplaces, employees usually earn promotions due to excelling or mastering a selected position. Until you attain the C-suite, the working world hasn’t historically rewarded generalists.

That is perhaps altering. The world of labor continues to evolve due to technological developments, and machines are changing many of the capabilities specialist could have usually carried out. 

It’s not sufficient to be an professional in only one space. The digitization of the office and the world has caused advances like the potential of distant groups — which many firms are having to adapt to because the world continues to grapple with the implications of COVID-19. However, it is also given rise to complicated issues like digital privateness and cybersecurity. 

The world wants individuals who can remedy these points — those that can marry their understanding of many totally different fields, experience, and areas of data are in the very best place to accomplish that. 

Business Insider spoke to people who’ve furthered their careers and elevated their incomes energy on account of their a number of interests. And whereas they acknowledge that the world has been sluggish to worth folks like them, they share some suggestions and insights on how they’ve managed to thrive in a historically specialists’ world. 

Embrace your interests and curiosity by carving out your personal position

Growing up, Emilie Wapnick thought that one thing was fallacious together with her. She speaks about this in her 2015 TED Talk, titled “Why some of us don’t have one true calling,” which has amassed over a million views. 

“I was into all these different subjects. I played music, built websites, enjoyed math and writing, made films, even went to law school,” she advised Business Insider. “I couldn’t figure out what my ‘one true calling’ was because there were so many things I was excited about. And yet, the idea of picking one field and giving the others up sounded horrible.” 

Emilie Wapnick

Emilie Wapnick.

Emilie Wapnick


In her mid-twenties, she determined to embrace what she calls her “multipotentialite” tendency. She began a web site known as Puttylike to dive into what it is like to have an interest in so many various things. She finally turned the web site right into a enterprise. Today, Puttylike earns income by means of promoting programs and a paid membership neighborhood for multipotentialites that contain digital networking, workshops, and entry to assets. 

“As a business owner, I get to be a writer, speaker, facilitator, coach, designer, marketer, editor, and teacher,” Wapnick stated. “Of course, I delegate and outsource parts of my business, but having the ability to do many different things has been very empowering and fruitful.” 

Louisa Nicola, a former skilled triathlete turned neuroscientist and the founder and director of Neuro Athletics, a full-service neuroscience and medical-grade diagnostic testing firm based mostly in New York City, took an interest in train science early on. After finishing her undergraduate diploma in train and sports activities science, she pursued a grasp’s of arithmetic with a concentrate on neuroscience. 

She quickly realized that there was a chance to combine these skills. “I had to fight every day,” she stated, to persuade her goal market “that this stuff works.” 

When she began, there wasn’t as a lot mainstream curiosity when it comes to the connection between the mind and the physique. But in the present day, as folks achieve extra of an understanding of the mind and its significance, it is change into a lot simpler for Nicola to promote the worth of her providers. 

Louisa Nicola

Louisa Nicola.

Louisa Nicola


Initially, her shoppers had been largely elite athletes, however her enterprise has since expanded to merchants and these in the finance business who’re required to make split-second selections on a day-to-day foundation. 

“When we first started, we wanted to work 100% with athletes and came to realize that high-stakes environments like the hedge fund world are also elite athletes in their own way,” she stated. “We began testing and reiterating the product and service to fit the needs of the financial industry and found it to be very fitting with Neuro Athletics. This enabled us to expand and grow the company exponentially as we had a second revenue stream.”

Today, the corporate has a world attain, having labored with shoppers from Australia, London, New York, Los Angeles, Canada, and Spain. 

“We have so much more information now, which makes my product and my method that much better,” she stated. 

Advertise your self as a specialist, then show your self as a generalist

For Ben Vandgrift, leveraging his a number of interests has concerned discovering sensible methods to showcase his experience to his employers. Vandgrift has at all times labored in a technology-centric perform, however his expertise ranges from techniques administration to front-end and back-end internet improvement to visible and graphic design to roles that contain totally different programming languages. He’s additionally shifted industries a couple of instances, having labored at a consultancy, in industrial manufacturing, and for a tax firm. 

“About every other job change, I pick something that I haven’t done before,” he stated. 

Ben Vandgrift

Ben Vandgrift.

Ben Vandgrift


Vandgrift admitted that the important thing to getting these jobs was presenting himself as a specialist first, and then demonstrating his different experience as soon as he secured the place. Once you are in the job, it turns into simpler for firms to see your added worth, and you possibly can level to these issues as laborious proof to help a increase or a promotion, he stated. 

When he labored as a director-level technologist tasked with updating the technical functionality of an industrial recruitment producer, he turned extra and extra concerned in the corporate’s day-to-day operations — accounting, hiring, and gross sales. 

“I kept track of revenue and savings for which I was directly responsible. Over a span of 18 months, my pay increased by 50%, as I pointed these things out to the then-owner. By the time I left the organization, I was in effect the CEO — and still responsible for most of the technology decisions and a fair amount of implementation,” he stated. “In those two years, I’d increased the [small] company’s revenue by $4.6 million annually, and had a plan for $10 million in the following year. It’s difficult to tell someone their salary is enough when that person is personally accounting for 85% of a company’s new revenue.”

Nowadays, Vandgrift has gotten himself to a sufficiently snug monetary place to work on ardour initiatives full time. One of the initiatives he is engaged on, for instance, is constructing a software program to assist low-income taxpayers obtain the Earned Income Tax Credit. 

“It’s easy to demonstrate competency in many things. But our interview process in the US is so incredibly broken that you have to get in the door first,” Vandgrift stated. 

Josh Payton, presently a design director at Airbnb, shared that having loads of interests has at all times been “part of my makeup,” he stated. In faculty, he acquired an internship at Microsoft when he was 19 and realized that he was in a position to do what many of the staff in the manufacturing group — who had been in their early 20s — had been doing. 

“They were there for five to six years,” stated Payton, “and all they were doing were sourcing images, cropping, and retouching them. I thought, ‘Yeah, I can do that.'”

Josh Payton

Josh Payton.

Josh Payton


Payton left faculty to work full time at Microsoft as a designer. Embracing his curiosity, he realized and executed duties that had been past his job description, like constructing HTML prototypes. When the dot-com crash passed off, many of his friends had been laid off, however he survived.  

In 5 years, he was heading up the interactive design for Slate Magazine — then owned by Microsoft earlier than it was bought by The Washington Post in 2004 (Slate continues to be below the possession of Graham Holdings Company, which offered The Washington Post to Jeff Bezos in October 2013.) Since his stint at Microsoft, Payton has held senior roles at Yahoo!, Amazon, and Apple, and now leads product technique and design for Airbnb’s guest-facing merchandise. 

Find firms that worth cross-disciplinary collaboration

Vandgrift stated that there are two sorts of firms you possibly can be part of. 

First, there’s the previous, conventional companies who’ve “entrenched ways of thinking,” he stated. 

“They’re going to try and shake things up, but for an organization that large, culture is very difficult to move,” he added. He suggested that generalists steer clear of working for firms which are “built on the replaceability of their staff.” 

“A polymath’s value-add for an organization comes from their ability to synthesize information across disciplines. By extension, then, an organization that doesn’t communicate often across disciplines is a bad fit for a polymath,” Vandgrift stated.

Some of the issues he really useful watching out for are silos and slender job descriptions. 

“Similarly, an organization that has a very narrow focus (or a very deep niche) likely isn’t a good fit unless that niche concerns co-ordination itself,” he stated. 

Organizations that embrace autonomy are those that polymaths want to look out for. If attainable, he stated that job-seeking polymaths ought to speak to present staff and assess, “How empowered are they to act under their own power without a dozen approvals required?”

On the opposite finish, there are firms in each business who’re transferring quicker and disrupting the established order. These organizations have a tendency to be smaller in dimension and have a higher appreciation for agility and a multidisciplinary method. While these organizations are nice for polymaths, Vandgrift warned that burnout is probably going to be extra prevalent in these kinds of companies (significantly those which are self-funded), so paying consideration to the tradition is extraordinarily essential. 

Ten years in the past, multipotentialites and polymaths had been seemingly to be an anomaly in a corporation. But in the present day, firms look for many who can combine a number of skills collectively. 

“Now, you’re sitting next to a developer while you’re doing design work. Being able to have intellectual conversations with those people is super important,” Payton stated. In the tech business particularly, Payton believes that being adaptable and multi-disciplinary has change into a bonus, particularly as issues proceed to change at a quick tempo. 

“I think the world has changed to reward those types of folks,” he added.



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