On Multipotentialites & True Calling(s)

by Hannah Bergqvist

I sometimes look back at my career and wonder where it’s all going to lead. My first real job was with a publishing house, where I worked across almost all offices from kitchen/garden to marketing and production. I also helped out at bookfairs and in-house events. I then went on to share my passion for story in a bookstore and I eventually became apprenticed there. I have since worked at various publishing houses and taken a Master’s degree in English Language & Literature. I have also explored the digital frontier in a public welfare technology fund under the Danish Agency for Digitisation (Ministry of Finance), where I learned to manoeuvre a CMS back end. And later I became an editor of digital teaching materials and then producer of Augmented Reality books. Then I transformed my freelance-mostly-for-the-fun-of-it game into an actual business.

And here I am. Still learning.

I sometimes feel I (still) need to find my proper place, that I lack a shelf to settle on.
In fact, I sometimes feel there is no (one) shelf for me.

My mom says that when people ask her what I do for a living, she never quite knows what to answer. I don’t carry one single title – which suits me just fine! I divide my profile into four key areas: TEXT, DIGITAL, ADMIN & MARKETING. I span a lot of different competencies and have a demonstrated working history within all fields, even though they’re often considered specialist areas. So, am I no specialist? Of course, books and lifelong learning is the read thread in my work history, and I do consider myself an editorial specialist. But the positions I have held and the nature of the jobs I have carried out so far sometimes seem to suggest a professional fickleness, perhaps even a mess?

I have always insisted that my curiosity is my guiding star, because that is what makes me most happy in my work. But I sometimes feel I (still) need to find my proper place, that I lack a shelf to settle on. In fact, I sometimes feel there is no (one) shelf for me. And maybe that’s okay.

We seldom carry one single title, but we’re very good at navigating the fluidity of modernity and finding the gold in-between the gaps of those boxes exactly because we’re wired for making connections & operating in a cross-channel-content-curiosity field.

In the educational system (as we know it), there is a prominent narrative which prompts us to believe that learning is linear and that all education is A to B for the sake of qualifying for the next step, as if at the end of university we’re settled for life. All safe. And done. But I’m more convinced that personal growth and professional improvement is organic and continuous. And maybe we’re not all meant to do PhDs.

This week, my profile & professional self was compared to a Swiss Army Knife and I actually found the multi-tool comparison very accurate. It reminded me of this above TED-talk about so-called multipotentialites – those of us who are specialists and also generalists. We seldom fit in other people’s box world view and we seldom carry one single title, but we’re very good at navigating the fluidity of modernity and finding the gold in-between the gaps of those boxes exactly because we’re wired for making connections & operating in a cross-channel-content-curiosity field. I guess, the polyhistor is in my bookseller DNA. In a bookstore, everything you read is relevant. And that has become my mindset.

So I’m embracing the roads I have taken so far and the multifaceted profile I have developed along the way. And I have set out to create my own shelf and satisfy my bookish zest for knowledge by helping others share and communicate their stories. And I trust the timing of my life. Because in what I do now, I can see how all the jobs I have ever held somehow come together. It makes sense now. In one form or the other, I can use all my experiences and transform them into useful and valuable insights in the different projects in which I am engaged. And I love the variation. It keeps me moving. Forward.

How about you? Are you specialist or generalist – or both?

TED EXCERPT: “What do you want to be when you grow up? Well, if you’re not sure you want to do just one thing for the rest of your life, you’re not alone. In this illuminating talk, writer and artist Emilie Wapnick describes the kind of people she calls “multipotentialites,” who have a range of interests and jobs over one lifetime.

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