Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Justin Hamilton alerted me to this figure of speech over dinner last night. The ordeal with general education, I think. One can learn a little bit of everything or learn one thing really well. Which direction should you choose?

In the business world, niche is king. It is much smoother to specialize, carve your name, and turn a profit. Expert a trade skill and you will never have a problem finding a job in your field again. A specialist is far more straightforward than a generalist – more simple to rationalize and far easier to market.

The risk? You can get boxed in, branded, stuck. Known as a great musician, it will be difficult making your name in other art. Known as a great assistant, you will have trouble being seen as anything but a great assistant. Known as a talented comedy writer, you will never be taken seriously. The list goes on. Think you might want to change gears later in life? Be weary of specializing. Mastering a skill is great for those who prefer simple lives, terrible for others who live to explore.

Being a “jack of all trades” heightens your exposure to a wider variety of crafts, trades, fields and skill-sets. You have more options and therefore a broader opportunity to discover your true passion and talent. You may never be the best at anything specific, but you know a lot about the world and can be a broad resource. You can be the center of it all, a leader. Great leaders can speak the language of their collaborators and must understand the all of the trades involved. I would argue “jack of all trades” status is a prerequisite to leading strong teams.

Master of none? How about mastering the jack of all?


The Easiest Way to Get a Job

Announce that you will work for free.

Check out Vladimir – this guy is a genius. I was seduced into his offer to web design for free. I clicked his link and read his offer. News aggregators will get a kick out of this and plaster his link around the interwebs today. He will get a job.

Offering your skills for free is not the same as asking for an internship. Internships have you do whatever the company wants you to do, no better than an entry-level job. Donating your skills can place you higher in the company where you can leverage your talent and demonstrate niche value. The more specific your announced skill set, the less room the company has to ask you to do things outside of your interest range.

If you offer to work for free, you have to be willing to work for free. But I bet you will not have to. People will be attracted to your résumé and realize you are a strong candidate for their team. They will pay to buy you away from other companies pouncing on your offer.

True Fans

In a world of menial “like” buttons, ratings and million myspace friends, the notion of network is clouding the value of true fans. In this niche-saturated marketplace, fans are now more important to a brand than ever. They are your lieutenant commanders in marketing, stimulate the lion’s share of revenue, and take responsibility for the tribe. Filmmaker Kevin Smith values his fans and is self-distributing his latest film to them before anyone else. Identify your fans and show them appreciation.

A true fan:

  1. listens to you
  2. talks about you
  3. believes in you enough to give you money before your product exists
  4. does not expect financial return

Everyone else is just a customer.