I’m in my 6th year at the Open University and people often say to me, how many hats have you worn? At last count I make it ten hats, how has this happened and does wearing multiple hats make you more employable?
Does it make you better at your job? Or is it irrelevant?
In my time I have been a Student Experience Manager, Assistant Head of Student Experience, Head of Student Experience, Module Team Chair, Associate Lecturer, Practice Tutor, MOOC Mentor, Microcredential Study Advisor, ICT Auditor, and student.
If anything, I know I have become a master at time management, prioritisation, and diary coordination. However, there must be learnings from wearing one hat that are benefiting me wearing another?
Part of studying law therefore must include how to balance the multiple hats as lawyers. As a lawyer the duties required of you include but are not limited to the following: supporting clients, being an advocate, court representative, administration, the list goes on! Come to think of it, is it possible to identify anyone who only wears the one hat? I cannot recall ever meeting such a person.
Two theories that come to mind when considering if all people wear multiple hats, have multiple identities and have numerous responsibilities are social identity theory and role identity theory. The former is concerned with how an individual sees themselves, whereas the latter is concerned with how roles (or jobs/positions/hats) shape your identity and behaviour (Stets and Burke, 2000).
Research into the area presents several accounts of leaders getting their start in the industry by wearing multiple hats, simply put, more hats equate to more opportunities, more learnings, and an increased value to the organisation. But when does wearing multiple hats become a negative thing? Is it when you cannot perform at your job, when things start slipping and when you start missing opportunities?
McCarthy (2015) talking about a professor in an American college states: “I spend part of every day wearing multiple hats, including sports information, insurance coordinator, eligibility coordinator, Title IX compliance, event operations and marketing — on top of everyday activities working with coaches and student-athletes. In a larger athletic department, multiple positions are filled with personnel to complete those specific tasks,” Mehrhoff said. In the 13 years he’s worked as AD at East Central College and the almost 20 years he’s worked in college athletics overall, Mehrhoff has developed valuable strategies for managing it all”
Is this the lightbulb moment, does wearing multiple hats make you an effective strategist?
This would ring true with my earlier assumption that I am an expert at time management and diary planning.
Jones and Hagan (2020) claim that successfully maintaining multiple roles is challenging but can also be quite rewarding and lead to tremendous professional growth, this is also relevant to being a law student and practising as a lawyer…Wearing multiple hats requires attention to the Four C's (Competence, Connection, Conversation, and Consequences), along with intentional planning and relationship development. Hang on to your hat(s)!
I have no doubt that my many hats have helped shape where I am today, and my effectiveness in the roles I am performing.
Of the ten hats mentioned at the beginning I currently wear four. I’m not sure I have space for a fifth at the moment, but I’ll keep my eyes open should a new style of hat come my way as it might just open the doors to a whole new array of hats for me to wear!
Jones, G. and Hagan, T. (2020) ‘Compliance Officers Who Wear Multiple Hats Can Extend Their Influence with the Four Cs: Competence, Connection, Conversation, and Consequences’, Journal of Health Care Compliance, 22(1), pp. 31–62.
McCarthy, C. (2015) ‘Follow proven strategies for wearing multiple hats’, College athletics and the law, 12(7), pp. 8–8. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/catl.30132.
Stets, J. E., & Burke, P. J. 2000. Identity theory and social identity theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63(3): 224-237.
Ben is a Lecturer and Head of Student Experience in the Law School at the Open University. Ben has worked across both the business and law schools whilst at the Open University and is also actively engaged with the FutureLearn platform.
Ben has held many roles at the Open University including Student Experience Manager, Assistant Head of Student Experience and Module Chair.
Ben’s teaching experience and interests to date are concerned with marketing and entrepreneurship. Ben’s scholarship and research interests cover a range of areas connected with how students learn and what motivates students to continue and progress with their chosen study paths..