What Zooey Deschanel Can Teach Us About Juggling Multiple Professions

Is there anything Zooey Deschanel can’t do? She is, seemingly simultaneously, a model, actress, producer, singer-songwriter and internet entrepreneur, as well as a co-founder of the popular female focused website, HelloGiggles. Let’s not forget Deschanel’s self-directed TV Show 'New Girl', airing it's 6th season this September.

As multi-talented as she is, Deschanel is more than aware that moving from one capability to another can invite criticism. She told MAKERS that when, after establishing herself as an actress, she wanted to try something in the realm of music, she was scared about what people would think of her trying to do both.

Does that make Deschanel the archetypal Millennial? Millennials – often cited as opting for portfolio careers – prefer the autonomy, variety and freedom of freelancing and part-timing, so as not to be a slave to a boss or tied to a particular title.

For some, like many generations before them, having multiple jobs is a simple economic necessity; for others, it’s a way to support a creative passion. For many more, the multiple professional identities come from a desire to follow two or more passions simultaneously, being unafraid to curate a unique and varied LinkedIn profile, rather than relying on one from the corporate template. 

There are, in many cases justifiable, criticisms levied at these job-jugglers. One being that throwing one’s energy into several streams may lead to excessive stress and burn-out. Another criticism is linked to Anders Ericsson’s theory, made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in “Outliers: The Story Of Success,” that, in order to master a skill, a person will need to practice it for at least 10,000 hours. If Ericsson’s theory is universally true, it would take longer for a person with a portfolio career to hone a talent and become an expert in their field(s).

Countering these criticisms, one can argue that, if you don’t use your energy and time to its full capacity when you’re young, when can you do it? If Ericsson and Gladwell’s theories are right, it does not necessarily follow that everyone has to take part in the race to expertise. In fact, if we are all living and working longer, there is even less reason to rush specialisation. However, many portfolio careerists, Deschanel included, excel in what they do despite having more than one string to their bows. 

Forging several paths also insures individuals against both economic cycles and social changes which may make certain jobs obsolete, as well as from the all-too-frequent realization that one has been pursuing the wrong job for too long and the consequent feelings of panic and entrapment.

The arguments for and against multiple careers aside, Deschanel is confident that what other people think of you, should not matter. She told MAKERS that she loves proving people wrong: “There have been so many things that people have told me I can’t do...only you know what you can and can’t do.”

Deschanel’s words and achievements provide inspiration for those who aim to succeed in multiple areas. We live in a world in which we can’t limit our dreams and possibilities; Deschanel’s view is that it is in facing your anxieties and fears that you become stronger. Zooey Deschanel – and many like her – prove that you can be a Jack or Jill of all trades, and still a master of all.

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