Many of us have heard the phrase “jack of all trades”. That phrase describes a person that is skilled in many trades without necessarily having one specialty. The phrase, in my opinion, has a good connotation.
My father, for instance, is a Jack of all trades. He belonged to an era when there were not so many specialty service companies available and you…well, had to do it yourself. Now, I don’t mean to indicate that having someone else do the work for you is a bad thing; after all I pay someone to mow my grass although I can probably do it myself.
However, there is something intrinsically valuable in having knowledge of several trades, particularly in today’s workforce. People that worked in their careers from after World War II (1945) through to about 1990, for the most part, worked for one company the length of their working life. The period of time from the 1990s until today, employees generally are working for 2-4 companies or more. Often times, workers are even changing career fields much more frequently than in prior generations before 1990.
So we can see the value of being a jack of most trades. With the economy changing quickly and technology changing the very fabric of the workplace today; it is imperative that we become a jack of most trades.
According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers are seeking a balance of skills in addition to content knowledge. Over 70% of employers seek leadership, ability to work in a team, written communication skills, problem solving skills, and a strong work ethic. Apparently employers are not as interested in content knowledge (business, computers, legal, etc.) as they are for employees to be well rounded in a host of other skills.
It would be quite difficult to be a jack of ALL trades, but very possible to be a jack of MOST trades and benefit from what employers are seeking. A few tips on how to do that would be to:
- Learn new things – we have been living in the information age since about the year 1450 when movable type was invented (see Printing Press), and particularly since most things have gone digital in the past 20 years. Information is available through several online tutorials, software, and simply by reading electronically (or even the old fashioned way of reading a book, which you can check out at the library for free).
- Volunteer – if you have some extra time, consider volunteering with a particular organization or company you have an interest in learning about that particular industry. This can be a great method of networking and learning about a trade you might be interested in before you take a big step career wise.
- Application – apply what you have learned to everyday life. Apply the communication and leadership skills you’ve learned through volunteering to coach little league. Apply the skills you learned through taking an online tutorial on computer networking.
And by all means, take time to enjoy the journey to becoming a jack of most trades. More information on career planning and exploration can be found at Workforce Solutions.
David Spears is a member of the Workforce Solutions Navigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.