Not deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life

2 girls in 1987

Me at age 6 with my sister. I’m guessing we want to be famous actresses at this time.

When we were children, we were always asked by adults “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I can remember some of my answers from the ages of 5 to 10: I wanted to be a hairdresser, an actress or generally famous. How can a 5 year old answer a question like this?

After age 10 I started saying “I don’t know”, and I’ve been saying that ever since.

I’m not a person of one calling (life would be so simple if I was!). I’m interested in many things. I know a fair bit about a lot of things. And I become interested in something new every other day. To decide on just one things feels like I’m strangling my potential.

I came across a piece of advice about 6 months ago that said that I don’t need to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life – I only need to know what I wanted to do next. That next thing could last for a month or a year. And when it stops being interesting, I can do something else.

Don’t ask yourself what you want to do for the rest of your life. Ask what you want to do now, this year, in the next few years, and then get started.

Are you a scanner?

Do you enjoy learning about lots of different things?
Do you get bored easily?
Do you want to experience many different careers?

Scanners are people who love learning about lots of different things. They are sometimes called renaissance men/women, like the famous scanner Leonardo Da Vinci.

The term ‘Scanner’ was coined by US author Barbara Sher in her 1994 book ‘ I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was’. I heard the term last year and instantly knew it describes me perfectly.

If you are a scanner, it is important to create a career that suits your personality. Specialising in one thing is not going to make you happy.

A great website to learn about how to design your life to make the most of your scanner personality is Puttylike.

To find out whether you are a scanner, read Are you a scanner? By Barbara Sher.

If you are in London, check out the monthly Scanners Night.

My portfolio career

To suit my scanner personality, I’ve created a portfolio career– a career that is made up of  a number of different things, each at different stages of development.

Here is a snapshot of my portfolio career at the moment.

  1. I’m a freelance science communicator with Australian clients from research institutes. I am constantly learning about different science projects, so this suits my scanner personality.
  2. I help Amit with our business Gingerhood, and our flagship product Stick Around. I’m learning so much through having our own business – it is like a crash course in how the world works.
  3. I do occasional work in Israel for organisations like the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce
  4. I organise Escape the City – Tel Aviv meetings. This is a great way for me to meet other people who are looking for more fulfilling work. Often the room is full of scanners too.
  5. I write this blog on I love writing about the diverse world of entrepreneurship every week.

I love the diversity of my portfolio career, and I love the freedom. The scary part is finances, but that just adds to the excitement!

To hear more about portfolio careers, read this article A Peek into the Life of a Portfolio Careerist.

It is a great feeling knowing that I don’t have to answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up” any more. I don’t need to decide on one thing. I just need to do what I love right now and see what happens.

Jo Savill is a writer, science communicator and entrepreneur. Stay up to date with Jo’s writing by signing up to her newsletter
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