• Advice

“Monochromatic” job titles are becoming obsolete, or: Embracing being a hybrid

For a long time, I felt vaguely ashamed of the “/”.

I have a hybrid career. I’m an actor/playwright/freelance writer – and I’m lucky to cobble together a living from all three. But something about saying that out loud at parties made me blush. It sounded, to my ears, a little bit flakey or unserious. The hybrid of three careers made me feel like I appeared un-invested, wishy-washy. It made me, uh, twitchy.

But then, I started noticing something.

The same thing was true of SO MANY people around me. Slashes abounded everywhere I looked. Colleagues and friends were directors/teachers, designers/entrepreneurs, filmmakers/heads of marketing, writers/producers, nannies/photographers, programmers/painters, engineers/illustrators, accountants/activists.

In fact, finding a person with a “monochromatic” career (someone who did just one thing) was the exception to the rule. The few I could think of skewed a bit older, and had followed traditional career paths. The younger people all tended to be “hybrids” who were seriously pursuing several interests at once – often with great success.

As the economy changes and the workplace becomes more fluid (and often unpredictable), I think that more and more people are learning to branch out and develop complementary skills that often evolve into fully functional careers. Nowadays, the linear, predictable career path is often unavailable – but more crucially, people are CHOOSING to take more esoteric routes to success. The old molds are being broken.

This trend is true of people with full-time or part-time jobs, but is especially true of freelancers – who often refuse to be defined by narrow strictures. Most freelancers I know make a living from a blend of several occupations – some primarily lucrative, some creatively fulfilling. It’s often evolved beyond the old concept of an artist having a “day job”: instead, people are choosing to explore many professional and personal avenues of growth.

Being a hybrid isn’t always easy; it’s often challenging to meet the demands of several jobs. It requires you to clearly define and ardently pursue your priorities. Time management becomes key; you don’t get to watch a lot of TV. It can be exhausting and stressful, and – again – I suppose that one risks being judged as “unserious” in any given field. Funnily enough, that “un-seriousness” is rarely true; it actually takes a lot of commitment and discipline to juggle several things at once.

The benefits of being a hybrid, however, are many. I’ve found that each career informs the other, and that when frequency of gigs temporarily lightens up in one field, it increases in another. On any given day, being able to choose which thing I want to pour my energy into keeps me from getting bored and restless. There’s always something to work on, and inevitably some new challenge arises.

I’ve come to embrace my hybrid nature, and the response has been really fascinating. Because I no longer act ashamed of my “/”, people are genuinely interested – and often even impressed, which makes me blush for a whole different reason.

As we continue to roll steadily into the twenty-first century, multi-faceted people will become more and more valuable – and more able to maneuver in an increasingly fluid economy. Embrace being a hybrid; you’re not alone, and you have every reason to be proud!