We have all heard the term “Jack of all trades, master of none” and odds are it was in a negative connotation. Despite what popular belief may be, this can be a very good thing for job security and growth within your career. Now, don’t get me wrong, it can also be very bad, especially if you’re a Jack of all things irrelevant. No knowledge is worthless, but depending on the situation it can be very useless. A plumber with skills that allow him to not only fix pipes, but also install vanities, toilets, and sinks can expand his business by having the ability to work within his setting in a different aspect. However, if this plumber attempts to not only fix pipes but also cars and chimneys, then he might not be as successful. Honing your craft is one thing, but honing your craft and having skills to supplement your work can be extremely beneficial and lucrative.
In the corporate world, we tend to strive for perfection. We set our sights on being the greatest at what we do, but fail to see the bigger picture. Steve jobs was a great innovator, but he was also great at knowing the way people think and understood their need for simplicity. Because he could use his natural talents, and those he acquired throughout his professional career, he is now considered one of the great entrepreneurs of the past century. I’m not saying you need to be a CEO to succeed, I am just using him as an example because who hasn’t heard of his legacy? Anyway, being good at what you do is not enough to maintain job security and experience constant growth. At times, we wonder how someone that is mediocre at their job got promoted, or why they received a raise. We are quick to jump to conclusions, but instead we should step back and analyze the entire scope of their work.
A Jack of all trades is useful in more than one way because they know a variety of processes and protocols within their office setting. Typically, when there is a request for volunteers to take on a project I am one of the first to raise my hand. Not because I want to please the crowd, but because it is a great learning opportunity and I am exposed to different elements. I get to work with different departments, and I can build relationships that double as quality resources. Given, by no means do I become an expert in the latter fields, but when things need to get done, I know who to reach out to and instead of excuses I can produce results. Sure, there are plenty of things I can learn within my own department, but because many things tend to overlap, not only am I learning more about my position, I am also learning how other departments can supplement my productivity and quality of work.
By making yourself available to others, you grow your knowledge base and your worth. If for whatever reason, someone needs to fill in for a co-worker, your basic understanding of what they do will put you in a position in which you may be able to stand-in and figure out what needs to be done and how. The best part of it is that you don’t necessarily have to be completely successful, you just need to hold down the fort, so to speak, until that person returns, or a replacement is hired. Furthermore, you enhance how others view your work ethic and commitment to the team. Sure, you volunteering can lead to a catastrophe, but it was headed in that direction anyway, and no one else would even dare take the risk. If you do fail, can anyone hold you accountable for attempting to do someone else’s job? But if you succeed, you save the day and just like that, you have shown you can do more than what you were hired and get paid for. If that position becomes available, then you a strong case in your favor, if it’s in another department you not only have your bosses in your corner, but the head of that department remembers when you spun in the phonebooth and came out wearing a cape ready for action.
I am not saying you need to volunteer and go above and beyond to attain the extra knowledge, all I am saying is to keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask your peers about their job duties. A jack of all trades doesn’t have to be good at everything, they just need basic understand and knowledge. Building relationships goes a long way, and those relationships can lead to substantial help with the task at hand. At the end of the day the sole focus is the growth and success of the company, so when the time comes for a promotion the people that come to mind are those that can help in more than one way. These multi-use individuals look like a bargain to management. In addition, if layoffs are around the corner, because of the value you bring to the company and the many things you can do, it will be those with a single purpose that will be the first to go. When push comes to shove, we all know and understand office politics, so instead of gossiping and being part of the group of people that isolate themselves from other departments, don’t be afraid to campaign and learn the many roles and elements of your entire organization. After all, it’s not what you know, but rather who you know. And as my Army 1st Sergeant once said: “There are 3 types of people in this world. Those that make s**t happen, those that watch s**t happen, and those that wonder wtf just happened”.