Tuesday, 30 June 2009

We’ve all gone Plural

When I first started juggling my own multi-dimensional portfolio, it seemed pretty radical. I didn’t know of anyone else who was mixing managing a band with running a marketing project for a fashion brand and co-devising a book for kids, all on the same day.

Now everyone seems to have gone plural. The radio presenter in Ireland who interviewed me on Saturday also has a business portfolio that embraces communication training, psychotherapy, coaching for talented individuals, plus he’s a voice over artist for the Dublin train network (he really does say ‘mind the gap’). Then there’s all the jugglers I met researching my book. The woman who juggles her jewellery business with a TV company, another who mixes freelance marketing consultancy with further education.

But plurality is not just a choice for the self-employed, it’s increasingly an option for those in organisations too. As I’ve been advocating for a while, if those in organisations are able to embrace plurality it can make them a greater asset to their employers. A recent article on WSJ.com cites examples of where the downturn has forced workers to become more versatile, applying themselves to other roles and in turn becoming more valuable to employers. But plurality doesn’t mean that by doing more than one thing you need to dilute your core competence; it’s not a case of ‘jack of all trades, master of none’; it’s about your work life authentically mirroring your own real talents and abilities.

In my radio interview at the weekend, the presenter asked a good question; traditionally people like hiring specialists, so how do we deal with communicating our breadth as jugglers when we turn up at meetings or go for job interviews?

I deal with this in my book; it’s about having the courage to knock down some of the myths in business about single-focused specialism. The answer is once again being authentic about your talents. If you have what seems like a disparate bunch of balls you juggle, try identifying a spirit or ethos that unites them all. Ask yourself ‘what unites all I do?’ - is it that you coach people, you solve problems, you’re an adept project manager (whatever the discipline), or you’ve got a great creative mind. Work out the answer and put that at the heart of your professional DNA and your personal brand.

Or of course you could just take the easy route like me, and when people ask what you do, just tell them ‘I’m Chief Juggler’.

* Necklace designed by Amity, AllThoseThrees

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