July 5, 2022

Jack of All Trades, Master of Some

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Posted by Sharmarke Hujale

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2 min read

Is it bad to focus on a specific skill? I don't think so.

Is it bad having an overall knowledge of a broad field of skills? I don't think so.

Yet in today's world, the specialist is favored more than the generalist in creative agencies.

Generalists are typically seen as "jacks-of-all-trades but masters of none."

What's funny is when a company is searching for a person for a specific role but is listing skills that are actually outside the specific role.

Here's an excerpt from an article titled In Defence of Generalism written by Chloe Scheffe:

"Generalism, I now realize, is in my nature. I’m a generalist not because I think I’m good at everything, but because I think I’m very good at nothing. For now, I’m unsatisfied by all that I make (dissatisfaction is inherent to my particular strain of generalism; it is its primary torture). I ask myself, constantly, forever and ever, What is the thing I love to do most? and What am I best at? and What am I? I respond by working in every arena I possibly can. I investigate. How can I know if I do not attempt?"

My favorite part of the article that encapsulates how I feel about being a generalist:

"To be a persistent generalist is actually to be deeply, relentlessly ambitious."

There's also a concept called t-shape people. "A T-shaped person is capable in many things and expert in, at least, one."

Saul Bass was a graphic designer that did corporate logos but also title sequences, and film posters.

Milton Glaser worked on illustrated posters, logos, and album covers.

Don Norman who's considered the father of UX, has a background in electrical engineering and psychology.

So when has it become a bad thing to be a generalist?

Generalists are persistent and motivated to explore different fields that interest them. The hunger to learn more and do more is exactly what makes a generalist so "special". In my perspective, the skills to make the job can be trained and learned—but one's mindset is more important.

If I look at my spectrum of interests it ranges from design, branding, marketing, concept development, UX, storytelling, strategy, and visual communications. But what has helped me is having the context in which all the things I do—my WHY.

I don't feel comfortable putting myself in just one box and calling myself a specialist. It dampers the hunger to know more, and diving deep into another field that interest me.

A broader spectrum of skills can bring great solutions and results from different perspectives.

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