When I was 12 years old, I was inspired to become a surgeon after reading the book "Gifted Hands" by Dr. Ben Carson. This story isn't peculiar to me - in fact, it was a catalyst for a lot of Nigerians that became interested in pursuing a career in medicine. As a result, when I moved to the States for college, I majored in Biology with a Pre-medicine concentration. It was a given - my path was defined. However, all that changed in my senior year of college after I won first place in an entrepreneurship competition. This led to the creation of a sexual health public heath nonprofit (The ARISE Africa FDN) in Nigeria and it exposed me to other paths in healthcare. I came to the realization that becoming a doctor was not the only path to making a difference in the lives of others. In addition, my foray into a leadership role also illuminated the significant role of business in driving change and ensuring sustainable impact.
Prior to this experience, my worldview was limited and that also limited my perspective on the diverse career paths that were available and ways to impact individuals in the health field. Having this first hand experience also provided me the opportunity to connect with mentors, who eventually advised me to expand my skillset and pursue a graduate degree in Business. And that was how my medical dreams ended. However, it wasn't so simple - there were lifestyle and financial limitations as an international student that contributed to this career swerve. As predicted, getting an MBA further expanded my option and ultimately led me to a career in tech as a Business Analyst. While I'm fortunate to still work in the healthcare sector, the courage to explore different paths eventually led me to a role that sometimes feels like it was curated just for me.
“One of the difficulties that can come from trying multiple things in your career or not choosing a niche is the criticism or disapproval from others who may not understand or agree with your approach. Some may view it as indecisiveness or lack of commitment, leading to social pressure to conform to a more traditional career path. To navigate this, it's important to remember that it's ultimately your career and your life, and you have the right to explore and pursue what feels right to you. Surround yourself with supportive people who understand and respect your decisions, and seek out mentors or role models who have taken a similar approach."
In today's fast-paced, ever-changing work environment, it can be tempting to settle into a specific role or career path early on. However, there are numerous benefits to exploring different opportunities and trying new things before settling on a niche. Not only can this approach lead to more fulfilling work and career satisfaction, but it can also open doors to unexpected opportunities.
Ava Duvernay and John Legend are prime examples of individuals that have also taken this approach. Duvernay started her career as a publicist but later transitioned to filmmaking, directing critically acclaimed films such as Selma, When They See Us and 13th. John Legend on the other hand, began his career as a consultant before becoming a Grammy-winning artist. By trying different things early on in their careers, Duvernay and Legend were able to gain diverse experiences and skillsets that ultimately helped them succeed in their chosen fields.
What are the downsides to making a career swerve or exploring multiple interests?
One of the difficulties that can come from trying multiple things in your career or not choosing a niche is the criticism or disapproval from others who may not understand or agree with your approach. Some may view it as indecisiveness or lack of commitment, leading to social pressure to conform to a more traditional career path. To navigate this, it's important to remember that it's ultimately your career and your life, and you have the right to explore and pursue what feels right to you.
Surround yourself with supportive people who understand and respect your decisions, and seek out mentors or role models who have taken a similar approach. It's also important to communicate your goals and intentions clearly and confidently, and to focus on the skills and experiences you are gaining rather than the potential risks or downsides. By staying true to yourself and your vision, you can navigate the challenges and emerge stronger and more resilient in your career journey.
Benefits of not choosing a niche too early in your career
Develop diverse skill sets: Trying different things can lead to a broader range of skills and experiences that can be valuable in any career. Being well-rounded and adaptable can help individuals stand out in a competitive job market.
Discover passions and strengths: Exploring different opportunities can help individuals discover what they enjoy and where their strengths lie. This can lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying career.
Open doors to unexpected opportunities: Trying new things can lead to connections and experiences that may not have been possible otherwise. This can lead to unexpected career opportunities and personal growth.
In his book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World", David Epstein challenges the prevailing belief that specialization is the key to success in today's world. Epstein argues that individuals who explore and develop diverse skill sets, rather than specializing early on, are more likely to succeed in a constantly changing world.
Epstein draws on research from various fields, including psychology, education, and sports, to support his argument. He highlights how individuals with a broad range of experiences and interests are often better equipped to solve complex problems and adapt to new challenges than specialists. He also emphasizes the importance of taking a "slow path" to success, which involves exploring and trying different things before settling on a career path.
The relevance of Epstein's message is undeniable in the world today. As the job market becomes more competitive and technology advances, individuals who have a range of skills and experiences are better equipped to succeed. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the importance of adaptability and resilience in the face of unexpected challenges.
Overall, Epstein's book challenges traditional thinking about specialization and offers a compelling argument for the value of exploring and developing a broad range of skills and experiences. Its message is highly relevant in today's world and can provide valuable insights and guidance for individuals seeking to succeed in a constantly changing job market.