Meet Silvia Wiesner. She’s a multi-careerist based in Germany. We met at the Harvard Kennedy School as part of an executive education program offered by the World Economic Forum. She’s has a fascinating and eclectic story.
- Consultant | Leadership Advisory incl. Executive Search – Egon Zehnder
- Member of the Executive Committee – European Women on Boards
- Member of the Managing Board – IMAGINE
- Young Global Leader – WEF
- International Speaker
- Start-up Advisor
- Content Creator
On her motivations for having many careers
Strictly speaking, I have one full time job – the one as a Consultant – that is keeping me busy for the biggest part of my waking hours.
But I have come to understand that our professional identity does not stop at one job, even if it’s the only role that is generating relevant income.
Thinking of myself as a Leadership Advisor plus DE&I ally plus speaker plus mentor plus networker plus content creator plus corporate influencer plus…. allows myself to explore a passion from different angles, make use of different talents, and develop new knowledge. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to leverage insights, inspiration and connections across affiliations.
And knowing that we all are going to be working longer (think 60 years, not 40 years), we all will need to change tracks and work with portfolio careers in order to remain in the workforce for that long AND to enjoy it.
On how long she’s had these careers
Honestly speaking, I only became fully aware and started pursuing different venues once I had decided to leave my previous employer after 17 years – my first and only employer up until then.
It helped me develop a stronger sense of self instead of too much of an enmeshment with my career.
So, officially speaking, I’d say it’s been a year now – but a lot can happen in one year and a lot has happened in this year.
Advice to aspiring multi-careerists
Start by internalizing that we are more than any role or title. We are our strengths. We are our purpose.
This can be great guidance to understand where to start exploring.
And then: Explore different roles – and dial up those you are enjoying.
Use your network as sparring partners and leverage connections to land new roles.
On overcoming obstacles
First, it can feel like a lot of “chasing”(e.g. partners for my volunteering role) when you are getting started in a new field. But trust it will pay off – and will turn into others “chasing” you (if you are doing a good job).
Secondly, you need to be clear about your priorities and give as much focus to saying no than to saying yes. Be selective.
Third, explain the changes in your professional identity to your significant other so they can be of support.
On how multiple careers are beneficial
As many of my connections – developed through any one of my engagement channels – share the same values and purpose (e.g. related to DE&I), it is not a surprise that we might first discuss initiatives for European Women on Boards, then work on a panel discussion and eventually look into a leadership challenge, to which my Advisory work could be of help. All of this comes naturally.
On personal time
You need to be clear about priority zero: Your own health and your family.
I have clarity how I want my family to look at the relationship we are having – and I will make sure I am doing my part to make this a reality.
As a result, personal time needs constant attention. What helps is knowing what gives me most energy: it’s being creative and discovering new places.
And if you can afford it, invest in time-saving, such as cleaning services.
On what she wishes she had learned earlier
It’s really fully internalizing that we are more than any title. That we are bigger than any role or any company we might be affiliated with.
It’s about thinking what gets you into flow state – probably more than one type of activity. Therefore, why not combine different roles each giving you (different) positive energy.
On the stigma of having many careers
I think it depends on the type of roles we are talking about.
If we focus on knowledge work like I am doing (be it my previous management roles or my new consulting role), I think the stigma of changing careers, of not staying with one employer for life is gone. It’s more standard to move around than to stay for a decade of two. And additional affiliations actually feel more like a “sign of approval” than anything else.
On what to share with others
My professional work tends to have some kind of visibility. Plus, all my work is very much linked to my purpose and centered around leadership and DE&I. Thus, I am happy to for people to be able to see what I am doing, e.g. when visiting my LinkedIn profile.
On sublimating ego
That’s simple: Don’t do a day job that is not satisfying!
In my case, I am – by now – fulfilling only roles that resonate with my purpose and my strengths.
I am, of course, aware that this is a privileged situation. But I do think it’s more attainable for many of us.
On whether she’s happy professionally
Yes, very much so. Listening to your heart, choosing for people, and being in tune with your purpose – this always pays off!
A Day in the Life
- 6:20 am – Wake up, get ready for the day,
- 7:00 am – Wake up the little one and get her ready for kindergarten including drop-off,
- 8:30 am – Consulting work starts: external and internal calls, writing reports, updating clients
- 12:00 – Lunch with external connection
- 13:00 – Consulting work continues
- 18:00 – Dinner prep with the family
- 19:30 – Bed time routine with my daughter,
- 20:30 – Back to laptop, finishing off Consulting work, getting LinkedIn post done, working on a key note, catching up on volunteering work
- 22:30 – Organizing a weekend get-together, reading online magazines…
Where to find Silvia