In 2015, Emily Wapnick’s TED talk went viral, using the phrase “multipotentiality” to describe a career (or multiple careers) built around strong transferable skills. The hit video was shared millions of times and highlighted how valuable the ability to adapt in business can be. The EASA Applied Anthropology Network later joked that, “if anything, applied anthropologists are multipotentialites”.
This ability to apply skills and training across different settings, or even different industries, is something that is really relevant to the work and careers of applied anthropologists, ethnographers and other practitioners of applied social science. However, while this is a fantastic asset, the need for peer support from other employed or self-employed practitioners then becomes especially important.
Peer Support and Connections
It’s a great idea to build up connections with other people working with similar approaches, but especially so if your career spans different sectors. While working full-time, this can be difficult to do, but luckily there are many ways to do this online. Amy Santee has put together a great summary on establishing a digital presence (check out the bonus Christmas card photo, featuring her cats).
Through these connections, different ideas, theories, practice and fields of work can all be shared. MIT research released in June 2015 suggested that employees using social media were more likely to generate innovative ideas. No surprise really, when you see the hundreds of new ideas, projects and links that move through a well-populated Twitter news feed daily.
Of course, making connections online doesn’t mean you have to communicate solely online. In some cases, these initial connections can be an introduction, which leads to meeting in person, working on projects together, developing professional support for each other, or a working partnership for your respective organisations.
Similarly, connecting with professionals and organisations can provide great mentoring opportunities for both sides. Mentoring is a great way to promote best practice and your own (or your organisation’s) skills and knowledge, but the process of mentoring can also provide a development opportunity in itself.
Connecting with groups of new people, sharing new ideas and best practice, can be a fantastic way to improve your knowledge and network at the same time. The app Slack is gaining popularity as a way for professionals from all over the world to connect and share conversations, files, images and thoughts in real time. Examples of groups include Anthropologists of The World, Ethnography Hangout, and Practical Service Design. It’s a great way to open up professional dialogue for all, with no conference fee in sight.
For me personally, making these types of connections and establishing a digital presence has helped me to develop a stronger career focus. It also means that I always have a network of peers I can ask for advice or support when needed, which is essential when you’re part of a small team (or even a team of one) in that role in your organisation. Sharing experiences, thoughts and ideas with others around the world keeps me on top of best practice standards and introduces new ways of working. It’s easy to underestimate the power of digital networking and social media in the professional world, but it could very well be the push you need for the next step of your career.
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