This article isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve found yourself reading this far, you probably consider yourself a jack-of-all-trades, or someone has said that about you. It’s a double-edged sword to be known as someone who can do everything. As the saying goes, “Jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” When you’re good at a lot of things, it’s highly unlikely that you’re an expert at any one of those things. This makes you difficult to hire in most cases, but don’t fret. This also makes you one of the most valuable people in any company you find yourself in.
If you’re not already inherently a jack-of-all-trades, it’s probably not something you should aspire to be. It requires a special kind of personality and a large investment of your time. Every company needs both jacks-of-all-trades (or Jills), just as much as they need people that are focused completely on mastering specific jobs. Whatever you naturally aspire to today is what you should continue to focus on. Don’t try to be something you’re not. It usually won’t work out in the long run.
When you’re already filling a role somewhere, being the jack-of-all-trades makes you one of the best resources or investments in the company. You’re their Swiss army knife. As an example, instead of hiring a sales representative, they might have also gotten a data analyst, marketing automation manager, and a sales engineer. This allows your superiors to leverage you in many more ways than just the job your were hired to do. This gets you entrenched into the company in ways that you might not have imagined. You’ll be making a difference by working laterally across departments, ensuring the success of the company. No matter what your title is, this a great feeling! (And it also means that the CEO knows your name, for the right reasons.)
When your résumé or profile appears in front of a hiring manager, the prospect of having you join the team is an incredible risk. Think about it… Why do they want a Swiss army knife when they’re looking for a screwdriver or a saw?
They have the responsibility of hiring someone to fill a specific role. It might be a sales account manager. If you come in saying that you’re great at that and 3 other things, then you put them in a precarious situation. Their reputation is at stake – maybe even their job. If they hire wrong, they might not only get reprimanded for it, but they appear that they don’t know how to hire people, and they might even have ended up wasting a great deal of company resources getting you trained – only to let you go.
When a hiring manager is looking at candidates, they need to first know that the person will be the absolute best hire for the primary position. This is the equivalent of your daily commute in the morning. Sure, you have about 100 ways to get to work, but only 1 way is the safest, most consistent route to get you to work on time everyday. You generally choose the path of least risk.
When you’re a jack-of-all-trades, you need to come into hiring situations like an illusionist. You need to show the hiring manager what they expect to see. When you get the gig, you then do the reveal – showing them that they not only made the right decision, but they made the best decision bringing you onto the team!
This is not a one-size-fits-all formula, working in every scenario. You need to be flexible. Sometimes, you hold your cards close to the chest, only exposing your toolbox of skills once you’re on the team. Other times, you discover that you need to open part of your toolbox during the interview. Whatever you do, NEVER open your toolbox until you get the interview. Why? Because you won’t get the interview. It’s rare that companies are actually looking for a jack-of-all-trades.
If you’re great at 4 things, weigh them all out. Think of it like this. If you could only choose one of those things to do for the rest of your like, which one would make you the most happy? Which one are you the most passionate about? Which one would you be excited to wake up and do tomorrow morning? If you need to, make a list for each. Just figure it out.
If you’re having trouble choosing one, think about doing some role playing with a friend or colleague. Have them interview you for the individual positions. If you do this right, you’ll find that the one you should choose is likely the one you have to work the least at when faced with hard questions.
When you determine which one you need to focus on, the next step is to customize your LinkedIn profile and résumé to cater to that job. Even if you have other jobs in your history, do what you can to work in keywords, phrases, and skill sets that relate to your chosen profession. If you need help coming up with terminology for it, search around for job listings and descriptions that match what you’re looking for.
If you want to be thorough, have versions of your résumé customized for your other complimentary professions drafted as well. This will help you if you come across a potentially great opportunity that you really want to be considered for – but it matches a job you chose to not focus on.
As you go through this process, you won’t get it right the first time. Apply these changes and test them out. Figure out what worked, and what didn’t. Then update accordingly.