RISKFACTOR: Juggle that role

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In an era when a phone is a camera , storage device, GPS, health coordinator and what not, it’s only natural that you might feel bored doing the same thing at work

Do you feel bored or stagnated in your job? Or is the case that you always wanted to do something else but haven’t been able to make the move? Or perhaps you love creating music and art but have to go to work to pay those bills?

These days I have been coming across people who have multiple careers. Recently, I met someone who heads the big data unit at a pharmaceutical major, is an academic director of post graduate degrees in analytics at a Spanish university, and is also a successful author. Then this other person who has a PhD in biotechnology, is the country head of a pharma major, is doing an MBA on the side, and is a guitarist with a local band. Why do people do that?

In my seminars, I often discuss about what an ideal job would look like. It needs to have at least three characteristics: Something you love to do, that pays well, and also that you are good at. I might care about climate change and it pays well to be a scientist but if I am not trained to do that, this job is just a dream. On the other hand, suppose I love to sing and I have extensive training in it too. But unless I find that producer willing to launch me, I will remain a happy but poor soul. Finally, I might be good at finance and have the training and investment banking pays really well but if I don’t see the purpose of it, I live a rich but boring and meaningless life. To have joy and satisfaction, one needs all three. Such a subset of jobs — that satisfy all three needs — is a small one. One clear solution out of his situation is to have multiple vocations.

Moreover, in today’s world of increasing complexity and speed, there is much risk of becoming obsolete — be it for products or for humans — and actually much sooner than we would like to imagine. Think about it. No longer do we want to have just a device that makes only phone calls. We want it to be functional in multiple categories such as a camera, storage device, calculator, alarm clock, health coordinator, location tracker, and so on. Customers aren’t amused anymore with single identity products. The same is happening with people. Think about the self-driving cars — which are already being piloted in several cities across the globe. With that one innovation, no more would we need drivers. We perhaps wouldn’t even need to own cars anymore. And if you have seen the movie Her you know that the day isn’t far when we would develop relationships with Siri-like operating systems.

There are also clear benefits to developing oneself in an interdisciplinary manner. Having multiple fields to work on opens up our mind to new ideas, people, and perspectives. You get to meet different kinds of people and get that often-elusive contrarian perspective. And then Steve Jobs famously said, “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.” That is why FMCG companies like Pepsi are getting into design thinking or airlines are now experimenting with human-centered customer experience that combine fields of psychology, art, science, and business.

So, what can you do at a personal level? First and foremost, find things that you enjoy doing. Develop your hobbies. These might not be a source of earning but would be a source of learning. And they will bring joy. Second, try to find synergies across the different roles and expertise you have and look out for related opportunities. If you understand the language of business and love writing and generating content, could you collaborate with universities and companies that need communication experts? If you love creating pictures and videos, could you develop that platform for your company or your neighbourhood to share news? Finally, if you are really interested in developing a skill, take that initiative to learn: find a person who can help or a course online that would teach you the fundamentals.

It is natural to get bored with status quo. Many of us want to switch to a career that’s totally different from our present job. However, making that jump can be difficult — the risks involved are high and success seems distant. It might be time to start investing in multiple vocations.

(Dr Kriti Jain is a faculty member at IE Busine­ss School, Spain and an EU Marie Curie Research Fellow)

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