Over 500 years ago, a new vision of human beings began to emerge during the Renaissance period that “considered man empowered, limitless in his capacities for development.” This idea was fully embraced by a group of individuals known as Renaissance Men whose lives were dedicated to developing their skills in all areas of knowledge, physical development, social accomplishments, and the arts.
It is this same vision that I have pursed my career since graduating college. I have always been the type of person who loves seeking out knowledge from a wide array of fields and has tried to develop a skill set that draws from a diverse set of disciplines. This has been at the heart of almost all the career decisions I’ve made and it has led me to discover a brand that fits not only my personality, but also how I approach my professional life. On this personal branding journey, I have come to realize that I am a 21st century Renaissance Worker – and you may just be as well!
Marcos Salazar – Renaissance Worker
This past weekend, I was rereading one of my favorite books, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “chick-sent-me-high-ee”) and there was a quote that really struck me: “To live means to experience—through doing, feeling, thinking…Over the years, the content of experience will determine the quality of life.”
As I have been reflecting back on my last post and the overall discover phase of my personal branding journey, I began to see that my world since college has been consistently driven by the desire to fill my life with experiences that allow me to fully explore all the aspects of who I am and the many professional pathways I would like to potentially travel down. After graduating from Amherst College with a psychology degree, I moved to Boston to get away from academia and was interested in exercise and nutrition, so I became a personal trainer, spinning instructor, and wrote a book about the antidepressant effects of exercise. The plan was to apply for a PhD in clinical psychology but nine months later I became interested in politics, so I moved to DC and did an internship at the AFL-CIO and took classes at American University.
I then moved back to my hometown of Taos, New Mexico where I was a substitute teacher and then became a case manager for a community mental health clinic. There I helped clients find meaningful jobs, secure safe housing, assisted psychiatrists with psychological intakes, and eventually developed a patient assistant program that allowed low-income patients to receive badly needed medication for free from pharmaceutical companies. I eventually got the bug to live abroad, so I picked up and moved to Barcelona to experience international life while starting my second book on the psychology of life after college.
I eventually I moved back to DC where I had a brief stint as a sales consultant before I landed a job as a researcher for the American Psychological Association where I conducted education and workforce trends within psychology. While in DC, I published my second book and also got my Masters in organizational management as well as a certificate in leadership coaching from The George Washington University. I soon became interested in business and technology and opened up a DC focused online clothing company as well as taught myself to code as I tried (unsuccessfully) to launch a few social networks sites.
I eventually moved to New York, fell in love with Brooklyn, and am now working as a psychology and leadership researcher for the Girl Scouts Research Institute where we are studying how to develop a new generation of girl leaders that will take us into the 21st century. I also run a positive psychology website, FiveDailyGratitudes.com, and am now creating an iPhone app based on the site. And most recently, I opened up a New York based clothing business as well as started working with a community organization in my neighborhood to help teach low-income residents technology, entrepreneurial, and business skills. Lastly, I am working on new book focusing on psychological development for young professionals.
Whew!!!! Since graduation I have had 12 official jobs and probably just as many informal ones! And what I have learned over the years is that I am someone who thrives off of having new and different experiences, especially when it comes to my professional life. More importantly, I love diving in into new projects or fields, learning everything I can, and then integrating the knowledge and skills I gain into other areas of my work life. I have learned that I was born to be an explorer. I was born to be a career adventurist. I was born to be a Renaissance Worker.
What about a niche?
In the first post on my personal branding journey, I received an interesting comment regarding my desire to integrate all my talents, passions, and work experiences into a unified personal brand. Jose Paula told me, “…you have too many things happening at the same time and simply cannot focus and pay undivided attention to your niche…If you cannot define yourself in one sentence and state your one, single niche in it, you’ll continue to be confused.”
While it is important to find a niche that you can become an expert in, a niche and a personal brand are not the same thing. You will always able to have multiple niches; you just have to try to connect under a single personal brand. More importantly, I believe it is becoming increasingly important that all of us have more than one niche simply because the working world is no longer designed for someone who is going to focus on one single path for 30 years. Those types of careers don’t exist anymore and adopting adopting a mindset of a Renaissance Worker where you are constantly acquiring knowledge from a variety of fields and developing a skill set from a multitude of disciplines will provide you with a career advantage over those who have decided to put their head down and focus on a single career or niche.
Add a slash to your career
Coincidentally, as I was writing this post on introducing the concept of a Renaissance Worker I checked my Twitter account and saw an interesting tweet from my friend, Lindsay Pollak, entitled: “Defending Generation Y: The rise of the ’slash-career’” http://bit.ly/RLZ9c — follow @heymarci, the authority on slash careers.” Taking Lindsay’s advice, I went on to visit @heymarci (Marci Alboher) and eventually checked out her main web page and found that her writings discuss a very similar work life concept that I am exploring as a Renaissance Worker.
In her book One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success, Marci tracked people whose careers were comprised of many professional identities with Marci herself being a lawyer/author/speaker/journalist. What she found was that adding “slashes” to your career not only makes life more interesting, but also provides many new career opportunities. For example, if I was up against another candidate for a research job, the fact that I have many more “slashes” on my resume would be to my advantage. Since I am also as writer/speaker/entrepreneur/community developer as well as being very adept at using social media, if the other candidate just has lots of research experience who do you think they are going to choose? Who adds more value to the organization?
In addition, having many slashes can bring you into contact with many different types of communities and allows you to build a diverse network that can significantly help you in your professional life (learn more in this great Authors@Google video with Marci Alboher as well as Tim Ferriss, one of the ultimate Renaissance Worker.) As for me, you can see what my slashes would be on my new logo for my blog.
In the next post I will be diving deeper into the concept of being a Renaissance Worker, how I use my knowledge and skills from many different fields to add value to every job or project I am involved in, and discuss the benefits of adopting this type of mindset when it comes to your career and personal brand in the 21st century. But for now, I would like to know what you think about the concept of Renaissance Worker? Do you feel you are a Renaissance Worker in your own career? Would you ever integrate this into your personal brand?