I want to clear up some confusion I hear out there about what a renaissance personality really is.

How so, you ask?

Well, I’ve been keeping my ear to the ground and I’ve been picking up some chatter I feel needs clarification – fast!

Basically, I heard some interpretations of the renaissance personality concept that made me worry whether there are more folks walking around with the same thoughts.

Here’s what I’m hearing..

Some think “the whole renaissance personality thing” is a strategy; something you pull out of your tool box to advance your career.
Listen up: it’s not a strategy. You either are or aren’t a renaissance man or woman.

It is a personality trait.

Others think being a renaissance person is about branding and finding your niche.
Quite the opposite! Renaissance personalities, by nature, have many “niches.”

Branding and positioning yourself and focusing your job search are things everyone needs to do, including renaissance folks. It’s just a little tougher for them because of their often eclectic backgrounds.

What’s important to understand is that you being a renaissance personality is as much of a choice as being left-brained or right-brained. Or having an aptitude for math or languages.

Then there are those who think they are a renaissance person because they’ve been job hopping. However, when you do this purely for economical reasons, this does not make you a renaissance person.

The most important distinction between a renaissance personality and a more specialized person is that the renaissance man or woman simply cannot help but be drawn to many different fields and topics.

And…they get their satisfaction from the initial learning curve of a new challenge. This explains why it often seems they don’t finish projects. But to them, it *is* finished.

Often, they wish they could specialize “like the rest of society” because it seems like the grass is greener on the specialist side. (Btw, this is one of the myths I’ll be blowing out of the water in my 3-part teleseminar series. Read on for more info on that at the end of this post!)

Last but not least; I also heard some express their worries about needing to fit this renaissance picture to be able to work with me.

I can work with any “regular” professional in career transition, and have been doing exactly that for the past 8 years. In fact, it’s much easier doing that than it is working with renaissance personalities as their situations are much more complex. Creating unique life and career plans for my renaissance clients requires much more creativity than it does for the “specialist” – the opposite of the renaissance person.

The reason I chose to zero in on renaissance folks is that I am absolutely passionate about showing other multi-talented, eclectic men and women: a- that they’re perfectly normal and: b-how to live the kind of life they thought wasn’t possible for them. (But really is if you want to take the steps to turn it into a reality. This is also something I will be teaching in my 3-part teleseminar series…keep on reading..)

Here’s something interesting I’ve been noticing..

The renaissance men and women among you instantly recognize the description of the renaissance personality and typically respond in one of two ways…

“OMG! I’m so glad there is nothing wrong with me! Now I know why I couldn’t stick with one career. Thank you for putting this out there!”


“Thanks for putting a name to what I am. I’ve been living my own “renaissance life” all along but still wondered why I am different. I never knew there are so many others out there with the same trait. Now I can take this to the next level.”
Btw, it is estimated that 10-20% of the population fits the renaissance personality description.

Whenever I speak with people who contact me with the kinds of questions I mentioned above, it usually becomes clear they are indeed not a renaissance person.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but maybe we could simplify things by saying that, in general, if you don’t “get” what this is about, it’s most likely not about you. Which is totally ok! This is not about forming an elite group of people. It’s about creating programs and services and a community for those that needlessly suffer from a trait that can be both a blessing and a curse when not understood and managed  appropriately.

But if you’re not a renaissance person; I still love you, and I will gladly work with you too!

If you haven’t read my earlier posts on this topic yet, I recommend you do. They will likely clear up any remaining confusion for you. My free report on the mistakes most renaissance people make is still available on my web site (www.CareerBranches.com). Just sign up and you’ll receive it immediately.

If you do feel that you are indeed a renaissance man or woman and you want to know “what to do next,” I’ve got the answer for you! Head over here to read about my unique 3-part teleseminar series.

Finally: a program created especially for you as a renaissance man or woman! I seriously  wish something like this had been around 10 or 20 years ago. It would’ve saved me lots of anguish. The teleseminar series is set up as a mini blueprint to creating your own renaissance life. I’ll lead you step by step. Come join me!  Here’s that link again

It’s starting May 31 and you don’t want to miss it if you’re ready to come out of your “Jack-of-all-trades shell” and step up to the “renaissance plate!”


  1. Renaissance — I like it better than jack of all trades and master of none. Again I feel reaffirmed. The first time was when I heard of the Slashes (like filmmaker / accountant) and the 4-day work week. Both concepts are in books by authors I don’t know, but people want you to choose.

    I do need to reach a certain proficiency in each field, though. Also, I need to start getting paid in one of them. They seem unrelated, but they are helping each other out. Thanks for the article.

    Comment by Marlina — May 14, 2010 @ 12:20 am

  2. Yes, I believe I am a renaissance man.
    I have had a number of jobs over the years such as: customer service, inside sales, designer, engineer,etc. in various industries.
    Whenever I go through a lay-off I look at every job out there as if that’s what I’d like to do. The only reason I keep going back to engineering jobs is the pay.
    I love to take classes. I have an Associates degree in Mechanical Engineering, but the amount of credits I have accumulated over the years would give me a Bachelors. Unfortunately, the additional credits do not tie together.
    DO you think I’m a renaissance person?

    Comment by Joe Langdon — May 14, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

  3. Yup. This describes me to a T. The most frustrating aspect for me is sticking with a sort of ‘plan’ so that I can make the most of my personality trait… Can’t wait to get a chance to work with you Ilona. Groetjes!

    Comment by melina — May 14, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

  4. dear lord this fits me to a T!! I went to school for theater, then started a career in radio, then did a 360 and now I work in IT. Left brain/right brain. Help!! There are so many things out there I feel I would be good at. I do something for about 5 years, then i get bored and move on. Its good to know there are other people out there like me. The funny thing is, not to toot my own horn, but whatever I get into, I’m good at. Maybe not perfect but good. It’s not like I get flaky and just stop pursuing it, I just get bored.

    Comment by Emily — May 14, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  5. Yup, I’m one of your intriguing folks, Ilona!

    And here I’ve I called myself a “Two-Year Man” all these years. I like the moniker “Renaissance Man” much better.

    @GaryFPatton in Toronto

    Comment by Gary Patton — May 14, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

  6. Me too. At least I think so. I didn’t know what it was until someone called me that. I had to look it up to see what it was. I seem to teeter-totter between arts/abstract and logic/concrete.

    Comment by Robin Clifton — May 15, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  7. Jack-of-all-Trades, Master of None is what I am. I was accepted as an Art Major but graduated with a BA in Communication. Now I’m over 50 and laid-off from a Communications job. I would like to get back into my art, but will it be enough to pay the bills or will I lose interest. What do I want to be when I grow up?

    Comment by Louise — May 16, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  8. I believe I am, but need to find out more about that label.
    As I explore this topic, I’m hoping for my own “OMG! I’m so glad there is nothing wrong with me!” moment.

    Comment by johnleemedia — May 17, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  9. Marlina, now you have my curious about your different areas of interest! : )

    There’s a book about “slashes?” Do you know the author of that one?


    Comment by careerbranches — May 21, 2010 @ 8:19 am

  10. Joe: sure sounds like it to me! What do you currently do? (both for a living and for fun)

    Comment by careerbranches — May 21, 2010 @ 8:20 am

  11. Hi Melina – same here!

    Yes, that can be a challenge, indeed.

    Did you sign up for my upcoming teleclass series on how to create a “renaissance life?” What you mention is at the core of the program. Would love to have you on board! (For info: http://www.CareerBranches.com/renaissance)

    Groetjes right back atcha!

    ; )

    Comment by careerbranches — May 21, 2010 @ 8:26 am

  12. Emily – you sure sound like a renaissance personality!

    And yes, many of us tend to pick up new skills quickly and are good at all the different things we end up doing.

    Not a bad thing, huh?

    : )

    Comment by careerbranches — May 21, 2010 @ 8:28 am

  13. Hey Gary – Renaissance Man! : )

    What’s funny is that many renaissance men and women seem to have their own recurring “itch cycle.” Some can stay in one field for 2 years, others for 5 years, others for 7 years, but the cycle remains the same.

    Interesting, right?

    Comment by careerbranches — May 21, 2010 @ 8:31 am

  14. Robin – I hear you.

    I have a sneaky suspicion that quite a few of us are both left and right brain folks without one being dominant.

    Do you also have very diverse interests?

    Comment by careerbranches — May 21, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  15. Louise,

    Have you made up your mind about monetizing your art? When commercializing your talent and passion it’s not just about whether it will pay the bills. It will change a lot more for you. Not everyone enjoys it.

    You could go either way and the jury is out: some renaissance personalities love turning their art into their career while others hate it.

    Coaching question for you: what do you love most about your art? When you think of going back into your art, which aspect of it makes you salivate just thinking of it?

    (For example: the actual creative process, the peace of mind it gives you not having to think of work when you’re engaged in it, or the joy of displaying them and getting great feedback from others?)

    Comment by careerbranches — May 21, 2010 @ 8:43 am

  16. John: did you have your “OMG-moment” yet? : )

    Comment by careerbranches — May 21, 2010 @ 8:44 am

  17. Probably.

    Musician, (full range from classical and improv) graduated from Naval school of music with honors. (oboe/english horn/piano/ and others) Along those lines, I’ve done some transcribing just to try it out- taking a piano piece and writing it for woodwind quintet.

    Writer – published in Chicken Soup books. Did an interview on a local cable station related to this. My passion though has been children’s books. (Graduate of ICL basics)

    Participated in Toastmaster speech contests – and enjoyed it.

    Done some apologetic writing on the web. Involved in church. Avid studier of the Bible. The Old Testament is packed full of pictures that point to something with deeper spiritual meaning. (Paul confirms this in his Epistles.)

    Interested in Politics.

    Programmer. Analyst. Applications management. My pragmatic nature will not allow me to leave this as my “day job”. Bills must be paid! Yet, I seem to get interested in topics at work based on observation and have my own private investigational pursuits. My latest would be understanding and influencing culture. Not ethnic, but work culture and subcultures.

    The truth is … I just don’t seem to fit in the box very well though. (i.e. I was a Marine – but went in as a conscience objector.)

    Comment by Robin Clifton — May 21, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  18. Thank you for putting a label on my career and my interests. Here are highlights of my career:
    1) CIO
    2) SVP Operations
    3) SVP Marketing and Sales
    4) Owned my own online fashion company for woman’s designer jeans
    5) Consultant to top executives for e-business (IBM)

    Add to this a basic love of learning about all things new and old.

    I always thought I was eclectic.


    Comment by Fred Held — May 22, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  19. The funny thing to me is that I have been calling myself a Renaissance Man for 20 years… until a few years ago. I changed to “Jack of all Trades and Master of SOME” because too many people were thinking me arrogant for using the term Renaissance Man.

    If I am in the right context, I will mention Renaissance Soul (as opposed to Man or Person) and it can be well received.

    I think one additional facet of the renaissance person is that they not only learn a lot and love it, they also are quite good at some of it. They are fair-to-middling at a lot of what they undertake (because that is the level they are willing to get to before they move on to something else.) But some areas they just take off and become masters at… before they move on to something else.


    Comment by John Simmons — May 22, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

  20. It is funny that no one has mentioned ADD, which tend to think is a prominent trait of the renaissance person. Extremely intelligent, bored easily, tends to enjoy the thrill of the hunt but not content on being a farmer.

    Why spend your finite life doing the same thing? If you are like me, you are constantly scanning your world looking for new things.

    Comment by Michael Durbin — May 27, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  21. Hi Michael,

    That’s actually a very common misperception about renaissance folks: that they all have ADD.

    Not at all.

    They’re not mutually exclusive (Barbara Sher herself has ADD and is a renaissance person aka “scanner” as she calls it).

    However, they are 2 completely separate things.

    It’s understandable why people think they are related, but they’re really not.

    I cover this in my webinar as well – doing one again tonight. You’re welcome to join us if you’re interested (it’s free!) http://www.careerbranches.com/renaissance_webinar

    Many renaissance folks have been misdiagnosed as having ADD.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Comment by careerbranches — May 27, 2010 @ 11:39 am

  22. Wow – great life so far!

    You are eclectic..but in a good way.

    : )

    Comment by Ilona — May 29, 2010 @ 6:39 am

  23. John: how interesting that you encountered negative responses when using “renaissance man” to describe yourself. This is the first time someone tells me this.

    You’re right – we can get absolutely great at things. Barbara Sher identified the different subcategories of renaissance folks (what she calls “scanners”) and where some like to do something once and for a short amount of time only, others do specialize but once they reach that level, find something new to focus on.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Comment by Ilona — May 29, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

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