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The George-Costanza-Worlds-Colliding Career

OK, if you don’t remember Seinfeld, your life is the poorer for it.  However, one of the episodes I frequently refer to is the George Costanza Worlds Colliding Episode. It was basically that George felt if his girlfriend and his “life” with her invaded the rest of his life (with friends), his worlds would touch, and then blow up.

(Slightly) awkward.

Oftentimes, I run into a lot of people having this challenge with not their significant others, but instead, their careers.  A MD is getting his JD.  A PharmD is getting her PhD in something totally outside of pharmacy.  A JD is also a nurse. Do you get my point here?  There are a a LOT of us out there who have multiple career complexity going on in our lives, and it too at times can feel slightly awkward.

Unfortunately, not too many outsiders know what to do with us, because our society loves us to pick ONE thing and ONE THING only professionally.  Or, worse yet, there’s another crowd that actually thinks having multiple degrees is…a BAD thing….because you’re a jack of all trades, and master of none.

First off all, I’m here to tell you that they are full of crap. (Feel free to quote me directly on that one.)  Secondly, don’t listen to the haters, ever.  Third–you’re just going to have to do some really hard work, and maybe even force yourself to create your ideal job or career from scratch when you’re a hybrid, because, it may not already exist.  BUT–the good news?  If you can hold more than one profession in your head at a time, I’m CERTAIN you can go deep enough with your thinking to create an amazing, one-of-a-kind career made just for you and you alone.

If you need to get out of the box and kick it to the curb for a moment, here are some suggestions on where to start:

1.  Nonprofits – I know, I know.  Everyone says if you go to a NFP, you won’t get paid.  Well, those haters either must suck at negotiation, and/or grant writing, because if you can justify your salary at a NFP, you’ll be worth your weight in gold to that NFP.  Besides, a LOT of NFPs have to work across professions much more broadly – and someone who has 2 degrees in 2 different arenas can walk the talk with double the amount of professional groups.  You are literally two heads in one.  Dig! Besides, one of the all-time coolest peeps I interviewed for my hybrid book on lawyers/life scientists, The Life Science Lawyer, was an ex-NFL player who went to med school in the off season, then law, and now?  Works at a research foundation on the fountain of youth. Awesome!

2.  Think Tanks – Think tanks solve problems.  I just ranted at the other blog yesterday that we are ALL problem solvers if we are good at our jobs; it really doesn’t matter what professional label we wear.  Think tank peeps solve big, monster super complex problems.  That’s right up our alley, peeps – because we can put two heads on one problem to begin with rather than just one! Sometimes, when people ask me for advice–I might throw back at them: “Do you want the pharmacist’s answer, the MBA’s answer, or the law student’s answer?”  If they reply “all of the above,” I’ve still got their backs! LOVE.

3.  Academia – In the interest of full disclosure here, I’m currently working in academia.  But I LOVE it. With the right college, department chair, open minds, and a lot of creativity, you can actually make your ideal job for the dual-minded. What do you want to do?  Research?  Writing?  Speaking?  Academia blends all of those! I recently read a profile in the NY Times about a prof at 3 different universities!  So, you can build your career like haute couture in academia – you just need the right timing and boss to make it happen in a way best fit for you.

4.  Entrepreneurship – Now if you know me well, you certainly know I wasn’t going to leave out the ‘trepping before leaving this conversation! Entrepreneurship I argue is one of the most rewarding and challenging things one can do with a career, period.  If you want a steady paycheck, great – go get a day job. BUT–you can also start your own gig on the side too, IF you’re smart about it and don’t break any rules at work.  You know where I’m headed, right? Yup! Plan C.  Read it.  A LOT of professionals are doing multiple careers already, even if they don’t have multiple degrees.

Look, you’ve already had the guts and tenacity to go and get your third, fourth, or fifth degree in school and/or switch professional gears in one lifetime.  We get that you like to learn.  Noted.  However, if you’re going to sit back and rest on your laurels while people send a conveyer belt of cool jobs your way, you’re going to be waiting awhile.  In fact, you may be waiting your entire life.  Instead of EVER thinking your dual-degree or dual-profession education is a liability–I’m here to tell you that it in fact, despite all the haters–your hybridness really is an asset.

You just have to be prudent with that asset, just as you would with your social capital, or your money in the bank.  Start with the best asset of all and go from there: YOURSELF.  Work from the inside out, rather than waiting for the outside to understand you.  Because, they just may not.  That’s your job–you have to tell the universe what it is that you want, and build it from scratch.

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