Pass the hat: Why it’s essential to have a diverse skill set in today’s marketplace

I find it ironic when hiring managers still focus solely on an individual skill or trait of a potential employee and not the bigger picture. One of the first pieces of advice I received in my professional career was “find what you’re good at and do it better than anyone else.” In the beginning, that’s what I set out to do but quickly realized that’s not who I am. I have found in today’s marketplace how essential it is for leaders to hold multiple skills and learn a variety of trades. I once had a billion dollar retailer tell me in an interview when asked what I desired to do, that I couldn’t do both things I’m interested in. I have to choose one or the other because they are two different jobs. Perhaps if you’re looking for a career solely in large corporations but for the majority of Americans that work for small businesses and non-profits, it’s not enough to be an expert in one area.

With some organizations, especially in the non-profit sector, I was always told that you need the ability to wear multiple hats. Even in small businesses, it’s common for an individual to be in charge of multiple departments while having your own list of duties. Last year, when I was in the middle of my MBA program, I had a decision to make. Do I get a marketing concentrated MBA where my last five courses would be all marketing or do I switch to a generalized MBA so I could learn more about finance and human resources? I’ve spent the last ten years in marketing, and there’s no doubt I could have picked up new marketing tactics and strategies to make me stronger in my marketing career. I felt if I was truly serious about moving into operations/management, I needed to learn more about human resources and finance, so I decided to get a generalized MBA.

For me, I saw value in truly being an asset to a team. If my finance director is gone for the day, I can tell him to pass the hat, and I’ll help with his tasks. If my human resources director is overloaded with paperwork because of new hires, employee requests, and benefits, I can jump up and share the hat.

For me, I love the idea of small organizations because it brings new meaning to the word “teamwork.” In larger organizations, you have departments/teams to complete a task. Each of you is there because of your expertise to fill a need. In smaller organizations, the whole team works together to move the mission, and everyone is needed to make it happen. Under this philosophy, individuals with multiple skill sets bring additional value to the organization.

What do you think? Is there still value in having a unique expertise or has the marketplace changed where you should have multiple skills?

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