Master of One or Jack of All
With constant struggle to maintain job security, there’s also a constant race to do as much as possible so that you can stay relevant in a lot of areas. But in the long run, does it pay off to have your hand in everything? Or is it a better idea to pick a career specialization and hone your skills as close to perfection as possible?
Whether it is “Master of One” or “Jack of All”, each approach has its own pros and cons! Whatever we pick, we want to ensure to not fall into any of the pitfalls that either of these strategies presents.
In present times where knowledge and skill acquisition is both easy and affordable. And in a world where traditional borders are dissolving and hyper-competition prevails, a good career strategy is.. To ‘know much – specialize in one or two’ and then periodically go about building an ecosystem of related or diverse specialization around that one or two aspects of which you are an expert.
Being a specialist in one area or choosing only one career specialization poses the risk of being left out or behind in the game. There is always going to be someone with that additional technical degree or know-how or delivery mode who will do her or his best to leave you behind. On the other hand, being a jack of all and master of none poses the threat of being all over the place. And the masters are going to beat you in the game.
Therefore it is important that one builds enough munitions in their arsenal to not just survive the game but to come out winning! Also, this approach of building a pyramid of related or diverse specializations around your main area/s of expertise will go a long way in taking you up the value chain of whichever industry or domain you are part of.
The Sigmoid Curve
Another approach which can keep you on a constant growth path is by managing your growth curves right. Charles Handy, a philosopher specializing in organizational behavior and management, in his book ‘The Age of Paradox’, used the Sigmoid Curve to explain life and change of people and businesses, and how to manage them.
This theory has been around for some time now but like all things good it is as relevant as ever. Drawing from the theory.. all growth, whether it’s a job, a business or a profession, comes in the form of curves. You start at ‘Learning Phase’ – this is where you are, yes, learning, picking up the nuances, figuring things out. When a considerable amount of this has happened you set yourself on the ‘Growth Phase’. This is when you are on a delivery and performing mode. While leaning never stops and should not, this is where the trajectory starts to really rise up.
Now, since it is always a curve and the trajectory is going to start declining at some point. The idea is to start a new curve when you are at the peak or before the trajectory starts its decline. How long the curve shall be? Well, it depends from person to person, organization to organization and a multitude of factors. But it is always a curve and if you are able to cut off the decline and start on a new curve your overall growth line will always be moving northwards!
This new curve could be anything from a change in role in your current organization, to a new job altogether, a new market, a new product or a new career specialization! So get out of the rut and get diversifying!