Deep down, we’re all multi-hyphenates - people more than one strand to our working lives and careers - insists broadcaster-journalist-author-host-lecturer Emma Gannon in her new book The Multi-Hyphen Method.
The digital age has created a world in which we can work wherever and whenever we want to, allowing us to design our own working lives to suit. Work less, create more, and challenge the definition of success is Gannon’s central thrust as she examines the way in which we’ve worked for decades - and provides a compelling argument for breaking some very old habits.
Being successful at work, she says, has become about having a job that fits your lifestyle rather than ties you down and restricts you - whether that means turning a side-venture into a business or just creating a little more balance in your primary career.
The Multi-Hyphen Method considers this Brave New Working World, in which we now have unparalleled opportunity to be more than one thing in our career at the same time – and asks how we can all benefit from this shift.
The multi-hyphenate, Gannon notes, is everywhere now: from the marketing executive who runs their own internet business at weekends to the part-time worker who combines two (or more) careers in their working week. It’s a zeitgeist working style most commonly yoked to the idea of the ‘gig economy’ in many people’s minds - but to reduce it to this is to miss the nuance of the changing ways in which we now understand and execute the idea of “work”.
And importantly, it is one that is not the sole preserve of the millennial – indeed the idea of multi-strand working has its roots in the idea of the “portfolio career’ way back in the 1980s.
But it is the millennial, finding ways to work within a world of greater economic insecurity, student debt and a housing crisis, that has really exploded the idea – and potential of – looking at your career in a non-linear way.
For the multi-hyphenate, ‘What do you do?’ may be a question that is a little harder to answer, says Gannon, but your identity becomes less about what your singular job title is and more about who you are, what you are interested in, what you can do and how much value it brings.
She insists we can all channel the essential positivity of this trend - the entrepreneurial spirit – and underlines the prevailing wisdom that having more strings to your bow is seen as essential to getting ahead in the modern working world and in helping us to ‘futureproof’ our careers.
Crucially, The Multi-Hyphen Method gives a new spin on the ‘follow your dreams’, that has its feet firmly on the ground. You don't have to give up the day job, it says – you can love the day job, and do other creatively fulfilling freelance work too - something that makes this book as relevant to those in a traditional job structure as the freelancer or entrepreneur.
“Being a multi-hyphenate is about choosing and strategising a plan of attack and having the freedom to take on multiple projects, not being backed into a corner. This is about choosing a lifestyle. This is about taking some power back into our own hands,” she says.
In offering a “how to” for designing a fulfilling multi-strand work-lifestyle the book discusses topics that are part of the wider mosaic; from the way we view money and the culture of burnout and setting boundaries in the workplace to self-promotion, the concept of failure and the rise of flexible working.
In it, she asks pertinent questions: “why are we still scared to ask for flexibility at work - and why is it judged so harshly by many?”, “Can we have it all – and what is that?” – and argues that the future of work depends on addressing these and finding creative and empowering ways forward.
Fans of Gannon’s podcast Ctrl Alt Delete will appreciate the tone of the book, into which she has transferred the same lively and chatty style. And with a mix of wisdom and wily commentary - interspersed with references to essays, articles and case studies from multi-hyphenates - it may just inspire you to explore an extra side to yourself and your working world.
- It will feel like a sacrifice at the beginning: Using more of your time to do “more work” may not be easy in the beginning. Indeed, it is normal for something to feel like a bit of a step backwards before you go forward. Things take time to bloom, Gannon says, and you need to let your new working world come together. Just because it is hard doesn't’ mean it was a bad decision.
- Embrace your own unique magic powers: One of the joys of embracing a multi-hyphened world is that you are at the centre and you can bring your unique skills to the table. These might not be the usual extroverted skills that are rewarded in big corporations - your own superpowers are probably subtler but could bring much value to your multi-hyphenate lifestyle. Are you good with people? Fiercely independent? Adaptable? Can you learn new things quickly? Listen to how people compliment you for hints.
- Reclaim your time: Reclaiming your time should be a key factor of work and life today - we shouldn’t treat flexible working opportunities like a privilege for only a small number of people. It should be more widely available to everyone and a way for individuals to get some time back and burnout less. Having even the smallest amount of extra time means we are able to grow, learn and be the very best at our jobs.