Career Paths for linguists, Resources

Book review: How to Be Everything

How to be everything image

It’s been a while since we have reviewed a book over here on Career Linguist, but a conversation over on the CL (Mighty) Network today reminded me about how much I appreciated Emilie Wapnick’s book How to Be Everything and I thought I would share some of my thoughts by way of kicking off a summer “work books” series. Stay tuned for more thoughts about books that tackle subjects like finding meaning and purpose in work, and please recommend your favorites! @careerlinguist

Reading this book was one big huge “a-ha” for me, in ways that I think that many folks who have pursued a PhD will recognize. Emilie is known for having coined the term “multipotentialite,” aka “multipod,” aka “multi-passionate” or a variety of other descriptors (scanner, renaissance person, generalist). As I read this book, and worked through her “you may be a mulitpotentialite if…”s, I recognized myself in many of the attributes she describes, including that I love to learn, I am typically looking for a new challenge after about 3-4 years on any project, I can often be found at the intersection of two (or more) ideas, trying to work out how one thing may be applied to / used as a way of understanding the other, and that I seem to gravitate towards / thrive on work that pulls my attention in various directions simultaneously.

An important caveat before we proceed any further: this book is how to BE everything, and not how to DO everything. We all have limited time and energy, and although we may have many interests,  the goal is to have a good life, so we need to think about ways to strategize.

So, to begin with, one very helpful analogy she gives is that of the stovetop. We can only have so many things simmering at once, and likely at least a couple of them are on the back burner (at least for now). That said, her book offers four main approaches to moving through varied interests sequentially or simultaneously (or both): the Group Hug, Slash, Einstein, and Phoenix.

For a more in-depth exploration of these ideas, I refer you to the interview with Emilie Wapnick on the Happen to Your Career blog, which also contains a wealth of career resources, courses, and wonderfully inspiring stories!

So, the four ways to approach being a multipotentialite at work:

The Group Hug Approach is to find a job that is inherently multi – or inter-disciplinary. In the book, Emilie names teaching, urban planning, and architecture as worlds of work that would allow someone to wear many hats and shift between several domains. In my own professional life, I have found that work in consulting, editing, career development, and translation and interpretation also allow for the exploration of many domains, and additionally feature built-in opportunities to learn and do research as part of the job.

Another aspect of this strategy – which as I reflect on it has been a big component of the advice I offer to Career Linguists – is to approach hiring managers (for those who are currently job seeking) or existing managers (for those who are currently employed) with your innovative ideas for application and connection.  Your out-of-the box thinking and ideas for how to expand and grow an existing position may well be something that they are excited to (or at least willing to) let you try out, although of course, as Emilie advises, it is always best to frame in terms of how the organization will benefit – what’s in it for them?

The Slash Approach Is best for folks with interests that widely differ. The idea here is to pursue multiple jobs that are intentionally part-time so as to allow for expression of completely separate passion projects.

One expression of the slash is the “side hustle” , which I will explore more in subsequent book reviews for such titles as Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur , Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas , Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World and Leap First: Creating Work That Matters

For now, know that most of these authors encourage would-be “leapers” to try the “side hustle” for a while before up and quitting a main gig if it is not sufficiently “group-hug-gy”.

The Einstein Approach is about finding a full-time job gig that fully supports you financially (named for Albert Einstein, who famously worked in a Patent Office full-time and did his scientific experiments before and after work and on the weekends), but which leaves you with the time and energy to pursue your other passions on the side. Crucial to this strategy is finding something that is mentally simulating rather than mentally exhausting, but at the same time is not so engaging that it is all consuming. Wapnicks’s observation is that one key to success here may be choosing work that draws on completely separate interests and utilizes different parts of the brain for the two so as to allow for the energy to work entirely outside of a day job. My personal take here is that such arrangements were easier to find in Einstein’s day. That said, technology and modern approaches to remote work, and more flexible work schedules – including part-time arrangements) may make up the difference in many ways.

And finally, there’s The Phoenix Approach which I guess would be the best way to describe my own career path, especially if you start the clock back when I was an investment banker in the 90’s. The Phoenix works in a single industry for a period of some duration and then moves to “something completely different” to quote our friends at Monty Python.

Taking a step back, I would argue that many academics were likely attracted to academia in the first place because of their own multipotentiality.  My own deciding to quit my job to go back to grad school in 2001 could well be seen as an expression of my “Phoenix” approach.  And because we also love to learn, we are drawn to institutions of higher learning, but the trouble is that if/when the academic route doesn’t work out, or ceases to be as interesting as it once was for any number of reasons (including a possible “call of the Phoneix”), we get stuck in thinking that the academic context is the only place where we can find such autonomy / flexibility / continual learning.

Bottom line: The world of work is changing, and one of the major ways in which it is changing is that change is now going to be the norm.  Having many interests and being good at a number of things is a strategic advantage.  I am deeply grateful for this way of thinking about career navigation and orienteering, and I welcome your own thoughts and experiences: do you see any of the multipotentialite in you?

For more from Emilie, listen to her TED talk, check out her community – the Putty Tribe and/or buy her book:

As for us, what should we read and review next?  I am always on the lookout for great books that help me think about ways of building meaning in work and life. This month in the CL (Mighty) Network, we are reading and discussing Daniel Goleman’s book Focus. Join the network to join us for that discussion on June 26th!


Career Paths for linguists

The Linguist and The Future of Work

Alicia Martinez Miranda – Bio

Alicia Martinez photo

I began formal linguistic training at Georgetown and obtained a M.S. in Sociolinguistics.  During my time at Georgetown, I worked as a graduate researcher on a DARPA grant initiative to improve cross cultural communication in military settings.  From there, I worked in New York in healthcare advertising on ethnographic, dialogue, and computational linguistic studies for various pharma clients and disease states.  I currently reside in Denver, Colorado and work as a higher ed researcher for a professional development company.  I love to travel, try new food, and spend time with my husband and parrot.  I’m also trying to lean how to bake, but linguistics seems to be the area that I’m more of a natural in.

As a kid I loved to watch foreign moves because I could hear other languages and get a glimpse into a world different from my own.  In elementary school, it felt like I instinctively knew the importance of regaining the heritage language that was lost to my parents a generation earlier, and consequently lost to me.  I worked hard at it and now feel like Spanish is one of the most intimate parts of who I am.  From this experience, I learned how language represents the heart of the people who speak them.  Words, language, and communication just seemed to make sense to me – I know I’ve been a linguist from the very beginning.

I choose an undergrad college where I would have the chance to study languages intensively and travel abroad frequently.  From that experience, I gained an understanding of learning languages and language families.  From there, I worked for two years as a braillist to support visually impaired children.  From that experience, I gained an understanding of how to bend the literal world and how touch, smell, and hearing function as non-verbal language.

It was around this time that I decided to pursue formal linguistic training.  By getting a M.S. in Sociolinguistics, I gained an understanding of the systematic components of language and communication and research skills.  This also opened the door to my first legitimate linguistic research gig, working on a DARPA funded grand with a team of linguists at Georgetown University to improve cross cultural communication training in the military.  From that experience, I gained strong ethnographic fieldwork experience and the understanding of the importance of translating linguistic theory to real world settings.

I then moved to NYC and began working as part of a linguistic research group that was embedded in a top healthcare advertising agency.  I think this was the first experience that I truly understood that linguistic training could be applied to anything.  By using the research skills and systematic understanding of language that I had gained from my training, I was able to help pharma clients understand their market, consumers, and the nuances of various disease states.

Most recently, my journey has brought me back home to Denver.  I was curious what this next phase in my career would bring and was pleasantly surprised when I landed a job researching academic affair issues in higher education to provide professional development programming angles.  While I’m only a few months in, I’ve learned that the versatility that being a linguist affords me has never seemed more relevant given the world we live in.  By being immersed in higher education trends, I know that the reality of our world and the future of work is rapidly changing.  The global, technological world we live in is creating an environment where the purpose of higher education will not necessarily be to teach specific knowledge sets or train for specific careers.  Rather, it will be to create specific types of individuals.  With new job fields being created and others inevitably being lost due to things such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and humanless technology, a successful, competitive individual will be one who is versatile, a critical thinker, solves problems, understands data, can combine disciplines, can think outside of the box, and is comfortable with change.  While the prospect of such a different type of workforce can be both exciting and daunting, in my mind, this type of individual can easily be a linguist!

So far in my linguistic journey, I’ve been able to apply my passion and what I have learned as a linguist to government and military, advertising and healthcare, and professional development and higher education settings.  This journey is far from over, but I’m loving all the interesting twists and turns.

Please feel free to reach out to or message me on LinkedIn if you’d like to chat about linguistics and your career!

Audio and Video, Career Paths for linguists, Storytelling

Mackenzie Price at the campfire


Mackenzie Price talks with us about how she works as a researcher and discourse analyst in the work that she does with the FrameWorks Institute, where she helps advocates tell more powerful stories about their issues, or as she puts it “guide them through a process of thinking about how the language that they use is interpreted.”  As she explains, she comes to everything that she does thinking about language as a system, and thinking about interpretation as a process and the fact that any cue can be interpreted multiple ways depending on past knowledge, experiences, and current schemas in place.  And by way of illustration, she shared an example that was hot off the presses – a mere three hours old!

Many lessons from her discussion of impact are quite applicable to us linguists, especially that circumstance she describes of the implications of not having the importance of your work be understood.

My favorite quote from the interview is my new tagline: “Linguists. We have something to say about everything that has ever happened!”

Additionally, Mackenzie is a professor in a business school, and she shared with us a bit about what her linguistic skills look like in that institutional context: one where (like any other setting) a linguist can investigate the language of things like power, identity construction, and professionalization. She describes how in her Research Methods course, her linguistics training is evident even in how she teaches her students how to understand what’s going on in their workplaces!

Thank you Mackenzie for sharing your energy and evident passion for your work with us here at the campfire!!

To connect with Mackenzie,  find her on LinkedIn here

Catch up on any stories that you have missed by going to the stories around the campfire page here on Career Linguist.
Linguists’ skills and training can be brought to the challenges of our time – listen to hear what pressing questions these folks address in their work and where they see more opportunities for linguists in future. If you would like to recommend someone for the series (including yourself), contact Career Linguist.


Audio and Video, Career Paths for linguists, Events, Storytelling, Uncategorized

Hannah Phinney at the campfire


Hannah gives great perspective for anyone embarking on a new career, from the perspective of someone who has just started a new job herself, not just 4 months ago.  The conversation begins with a glimpse of a day in the life on the Bixby project at Samsung Research America – whose goal is to have users to be able to do anything with their phone through voice that they could do through touch – and then moves to charting the “wise wandering” that has comprised her multifaceted and rich career path. Ever wondered how linguistics could show up in work as a bartender?  Or as part of educational work in a prison?

She graduated with her MA from San Francisco State (go Gators!) just 4 years ago, but has done work in fiction writing, framing, teaching, and bartending since then, and translation / interpretation, localization, and project management before then.

Drawing from the breadth and depth of her perspective, we touch on themes of “making it” professionally, the importance of trying things out, and the idea that putting yourself out there is the way to get where you are going (there’s no other way!)

Thank you Hannah for sharing a wonderfully detailed picture of herself at work!

Connect with Hannah

Catch up on any stories that you have missed by going to the stories around the campfire page here on Career Linguist.
Linguists’ skills and training can be brought to the challenges of our time – listen to hear what pressing questions these folks address in their work and where they see more opportunities for linguists in future. If you would like to recommend someone for the series (including yourself), contact Career Linguist.

Audio and Video, Career Paths for linguists, Storytelling

Julia McAnallen at the campfire

Thank you Julia for sharing a beautifully inspiring story of “leap and the net will appear.”

Our conversation began with some great insight into the day-to-day of data analysis.  Julia shared some concrete examples which demonstrate the value of social listening – a subset of the textual analyses involved in market analysis –  including some popular case studies and examples from her own analyses.  We then turned to a discussion of bringing linguistics to thinking about career drawing from Julia’s background as the Director of PhD Career Services at Michigan State University.

As she shares in the interview: “everything about the idea of career transition is about language.” Typically the central challenge for academics is not that of lacking the appropriate skills –  it is how to translate what we know – and how we know what we know – to an audience that isn’t familiar with academese. Sometimes it’s just as simple as talking about teaching experience on a resume as “training” or knowing that someone won’t necessarily know that you bring experience in public speaking or being able to recognize some of the ways that our own rhetorical practices get heard and interpreted so that we learn to talk about our expertise in ways that enable others to truly hear and to trust our expertise!

Among my favorite moments in the conversation was Julia’s declaration “linguists are uniquely situated to be really good resume writers because its really all about manipulating language and figuring out ‘what does this person want to hear?'” Her enthusiasm for the textual practices and processes of applying for jobs is contagious, so I hope you will take a listen, and then share with us here at Career Linguist what she inspires you to get on out there and do!!  Thank you again Julia, can’t wait to see what comes next!!

Want to read more?

Read Julia’s articles in Inside Higher Ed:

Paving a New (Metaphorical) Path to Success
Anatomy of a Job Ad

Check out the book she recommended: Working Identity:  Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing your Career by Herminia Ibarra

Want to connect with Julia?

Find her on LinkedIn:

Catch up on any stories that you have missed by going to the stories around the campfire page here on Career Linguist.
Linguists’ skills and training can be brought to the challenges of our time – listen to hear what pressing questions these folks address in their work and where they see more opportunities for linguists in future. If you would like to recommend someone for the series (including yourself), contact Career Linguist.

Audio and Video, Career Paths for linguists, Events, Storytelling

Mackenzie Price will join us at the campfire 10/27

Mackenzie picOur guest next Friday at the campfire will be Mackenzie Price, telling us about her work at the FrameWorks Institute, where she works with social change advocates to change the public conversation about their issues!

this is how she describes the work on LinkedIn:

As an experienced strategic communications researcher, trainer, and consultant, I work primarily with non-profit organizations to translate experts’ perspectives on social issues and better engage the public. I use my background as an Interactional Sociolinguist to help partners look beyond dissemination efforts, and use social science research methodology to anticipate how the public will interpret their messaging.

Career Linguist Stories Around the Campfire series. Attend live Fridays this Fall:

Linguists are bringing their skills and training to address the challenges of our time – tune in weekly to the Career Campfire to hear folks talk about what pressing questions they address in their work and where they see opportunities for linguists.

Join us on zoom:
Fridays at 1pm Pacific / 4pm Eastern

Audio and Video, Career Paths for linguists, Storytelling

Serena Williams at the campfire


Thank you to Serena and to guest host Jen Polk of From PhD to Life for a wonderfully elucidating campfire conversation.  We began with an exploration of localization, or work in culturally relevant translation!  Serena gave us some great illustrative examples and in-depth exploration of the skills that are needed to work as a linguist in this professional context. Big ups to her efforts at broadening the definition of Applied Linguistics to include the application of all linguistic theory. And I hope you write your book Serena, I would buy it!!

Help Serena get the word out:
“Do you guys realize that if you love linguistics, this industry exists!”

Learn more about Serena’s role at Avantpage:

Find Serena on LinkedIn:

Catch up on the stories that you have missed by going to the stories around the campfire page here on Career Linguist.
Linguists’ skills and training can be brought to the challenges of our time – listen to hear what pressing questions these folks address in their work and where they see more opportunities for linguists in future. If you would like to recommend someone for the series (including yourself), contact Career Linguist.