Standing Out through Multiple Interests

Hey everyone,

This week I was listening to Maria Konnikova on the Longform podcast (summary below), and she mentioned an interesting strategy for getting hired that I thought was worth discussing.

Maria mentioned that she wanted to work with Walter Mischel (known for the marshmallow experiment) for her PhD, but Mischel wasn’t taking new graduate students at the time Maria applied. However, she wrote to Mischel and told him that she didn’t plan to be an academician, but a writer, and outlined how her planned research could be popularly consumed. Mischel, himself a painter, believed in having multiple interests (see Range) and found Maria’s stance intriguing. He agreed to take her on.

I think one takeaway from this anecdote is that combining interests can help us augment our careers and not follow the same route as everyone else. By making clear that she didn’t intend to pursue a conventional academic career (and, in so doing, potentially impact many more people with her work), Maria was able to get the attention of Mischel and convince him to work together. Her interest in writing was a powerful complement to her psychology work.

I’ve heard several more stories like this, in which a side interest helps someone be noticed in a traditional field. Do you have a hobby or talent that could enhance your day-to-day work and help you stand out?

Pete’s Picks ✅

  1. Book: I’ve been enjoying The Courage to be Disliked, which details the key themes from Adlerian psychology. Adler was a contemporary of Freud, and his work addressed “how each of us is able to determine the direction of our own life, free from the shackles of past traumas and the expectations of others.”

  2. Podcast Episode: Loved this episode of North Star podcast with Patrick McKenzie, an authority on the intersection of engineering and marketing, and one of the best-known people writing on founding and running independent software businesses.

This Week’s Twitter Thread 🐦

Summary of Maria Konnikova’s episode on the Longform podcast