This question is directed at the younger members of OAC. It is stimulated by stumbling across a piece that Grant McCracken wrote for Harvard Business Review and announced back in October. The title is


The first three paragraphs read,

The young are different than you and me. They have more selves. According to a recent European study, in fact, Millennials have a "multifaceted sense of their own identity."

"They change completely their attitude during the day, during the night, during the weekend," says Alessandro Bigi, one of the coauthors of the study. "It is not like my generation, where I have my professor work and then I go home and have my professor life." Millennials evidence what Larissa Faw calls "multi-careerism," holding several jobs at once. She calls them "hustlers" working "angles" in search of their "best bet."

This multiplicity comes from economic necessity. Having several selves make it easier to make a living. But multiplicity is also driven by creativity. Several selves make you more expressive, give you more opportunities to participate in contemporary culture. For pragmatic reasons or playful ones, Millennials have been adding on.

Me? I am, just barely, pre-Boomer, born in 1944 and fascinated by claims of generational differences—a big, big theme in a book I wrote about Japanese consumers. Happy to do some navel-gazing, but the anthropologist in me would like to ask the natives in question. If you are a millennial—or just post-Boomer—how do these claims sound to you?

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Comment by Erin B. Taylor on November 25, 2012 at 8:39am

I can't speak for Boomers, but I'd wager a bet that even if the trend towards multiple careers has developed due to economic necessity, McCracken is correct that many people are very much embracing the trend. I was born in 1977 and I witness people older and younger than me who are horrified by the idea of having one single career - a job for life. I know many people who are stuck in jobs they hate and wish they had flexibility, but are afraid to change for fear that they'll fall flat on their faces. In other words, from where I stand it seems that the majority of people want multiplicity, but not all have the courage or the resources to seek it. 

When I began university I studied fine art because I couldn't face choosing one single career. In fine art I had the freedom to explore all sorts of topics - academic and otherwise - because my work was largely self-directed. I chose anthropology for the same reason: what could be better than having a career that allows me to study 'humankind in all times and places'? I thought for a long time that I would probably choose a fairly standard academic path, but now I feel myself being drawn away from the academy. Interestingly, I feel a strong pull in two completely opposite directions. On the one hand, I am committed to popular anthropology. On the other hand, I feel a strong urge to do serious theoretical work. To me this makes sense as both contribute to the goal of knowledge production and dissemination - part of a larger project that extends beyond academic institutions.

I would very much like to hear other people's stories about how they make these multiple threads, which aren't always compatible with academic tenure, work. 


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