Meet Jim Combs. He is a multi-careerist based in Georgia. He is a technology consultant as well as prolific record producer and artist. I’ve known him for years through the music community, and I’ve always been him impressed with his virtuosity. Insights from his fascinating journey:
- Musician/Composer/Record Producer/Audio Engineer
- Record Company Promotion and Sales
- Retail Sales
- Interactive Media Producer
- Internet Producer
- International Technology Consultant
- Music Writer and Reviewer
- Human-Centered Experience Design Strategist and Researcher
On his motivations for having many careers
I’m extremely curious, love to learn, and solve new problems. My core skill is an ability to translate between creatives, technologists/engineers, and business people.
So I tend to exercise all those muscles in as many settings as is possible to juggle at any one time.
And my non-musical careers have enabled me to pursue my love of music without it needing to be a money-making venture.
Advice to aspiring multi-careerists
Like most things that have “multiple” in the name, it’s all a matter of balance.
Being able to devote a sustainable level of success, interest, energy, and commitment to each career, while also maintaining family, friendships, and other life responsibilities is key.
And ultimately, that comes down to setting good expectations for yourself as well as proper boundaries.
And being able to be flexible with the flow of life and improvise in the moment.
On overcoming obstacles
I’ve hit major dead ends and setbacks for all the branches of my careers. Made poor choices, got fired or laid off, lost investments in time and money, failed in creative or business pursuits.
But I’ve got a strong sense of self and I’ve learned from every single instance.
I adjust my outlook through education (what can I do better?) or contemplation (where can I get out of my own way?). And luckily, I’m pretty tenacious and resilient.
On how multiple careers are beneficial
I’m a musician at heart and have been in bands all my life.
So that sense of teamwork and creative process is something I rely on across all careers. My music production expertise enabled me to move into multimedia and digital media production early in the game before there was an internet, and then into the web when there was.
Knowing how to build global enterprise-level web tech applications led me to want to focus on the human side of the experience, so I switched to research and design. And all of that contributed to being able to run and manage a business.
On personal time
It’s something you have to constantly work at and build time into your routines and plans.
It has to be a priority or else it will affect your relationships and impact your ability to be successful.
You need that support and that space to be “yourself” in order to be affective in your career. That’s not something they teach you in school, it’s something you have to build for yourself.
Working from home has actually been a godsend for this.
On what he wishes he had learned earlier
I wish dual careerism is more of the norm of how we talk about work and careers from the get go.
I always told people my resume may look like a crooked path to most folks, but it looked like a straight line to me.
A dual or triple career is just another career to me. I wish I had known that early in my career. Might have saved me a lot of angst and struggle.
On the stigma of having many careers
Stigma is probably too hard a word, but it is definitely not the norm.
For many folks, they have one job and anything else is a hobby.
When the hobby begins to equal the job, then folks expect the job will go away. I view all the “jobs” as valuable pursuits and made a decision to keep them all as my personal identity. The question “what do you do for a living” is always met with “I’m a musician, and I work for a company that designs experiences for global companies.”
On what to share with others
It’s all on my LinkedIn profile. But in personal situations in the corporate world, it depends on the context or discussion.
Business often tends to be goal-oriented or transaction-based.
The question to ask is whether the sharing benefits the goal or strengthens the relationship, or does it introduce noise into the system. The producer in me wants to reduce the noise.
On what to read
Back in the day, I would read a ton of books and magazines on my interests across business, creative arts, history, politics, really anything that struck me.
Today we have the web and YouTube that can be sources of learning. And you can reach out directly to experts to ask questions or for advice.
I say follow your interests, explore, and learn. You’ll put the pieces together in a way that works for you.
On sublimating ego
Thank goodness my different careers have a mixture of awesomeness and banality. Creating or promoting a music album must have some of the most banal tasks known, but I am good at them and know they are a means to an end.
Same for my consulting work. Right now I am picking apart 40 one-hour interview transcripts to create a point-of-view that will inform a global healthcare business and marketing strategy. Incredibly tedious, but so valuable and necessary for the end goal.
What does retirement look like to you?
It looks pretty much the same as what I’m doing right now, but hopefully with more time to travel.
A Day in the Life
- 7am – Wake up, catch up with or answer critical email, shower
- 8am – Move to the kitchen, put up clean dishes, make a large latte
- 9am-11am – Set up laptop at kitchen table, watch my neighbors walk by, email, zoom calls with clients and colleagues (getting off critical path), catch up with my music projects (radio airplay, reviews), short errands.
- 11am-2pm – Move upstairs to attic office/music studio with large extra monitor and sound system. Continue heads down work activities, emails, texts, zoom calls.
- 3pm – Break for lunch snack or errands or walk around or family chats.
- 4pm-6pm – Finish up day’s work or prep for next day’s schedule, transition to purely creative tasks.
- 6pm-7pm – Focus on personal creative tasks.
- 7pm-8pm – Dinner break with family
- 8pm-9pm – More personal creative tasks.
- 9pm-11pm – Watch movies, series, or sports tv with family.
- 11pm-12pm – Catch up on news (NYTimes, Apple News) or read (books, magazines, Medium)
- Midnight – Lights out
Where to find Jim
Recent music projects