We have often heard the figure of speech, “Jack of all trades is a master of none.” What is the use of having ten skillsets if you do not master one? We have had a negative connotation attached to a person skilled in multiple fields who lacks excellence in any one of them. But what about a multi-tasker in a startup? And what about when you climb the career ladder? In the rarified air of higher management, usable knowledge of multiple fields is pretty much table stakes.
Formally, we refer to ‘jack of all trades’ as the generalists. The one who excels in one particular field is the specialist. Now, these terms are quite simple, but that brings up the next question for us.
Who would be a better fit for your team- the generalists or the specialists? There is no particular answer. There are various factors on which it depends.
So, why should you hire a jack of all trades?
- It can be a blessing for Startups.
Startups embrace the potential and abilities of a multi-skilled individual. A generalist can do a bunch of tasks by itself. And so, instead of investing in multiple people, hiring an individual who executes all the claimed skills can be a blessing in disguise.
- The knowledge in a broader area gives them flexibility.
As they can take up a wide range of responsibilities, acquiring many skills makes them adaptable to utilize each one competently. They might not be perfect in their job, but let’s be honest, there’s no one perfect.
- A learner who knows how to keep learning.
If someone is a jack of all trades, the individual does not learn just everything at one time. They go through the learning processes one by one. This practice helps them learn an important skill- how to learn.
Now, why should you hire a master of one?
- Who does not appreciate excellence?
We love perfection to the extent that we are often ready to take it. However, when we hire an excellent employee who knows what they do, it feels like just the person we want. Accuracy and efficiency are fundamental values.
- You do not need to train a specialist.
When a person is just right in a particular field, they might take some time to get the work done right. You may need to invest some time to train him. That’s not the case of specialists. They know what they do and how to do that with accuracy.
- What about a specialist who can also be a jack?
An individual who excels in a particular field is often confident and active. He or she can eventually learn some other skills.
So, let’s get back to the main question. Who’s a better fit for your team? The answer is, it depends on the gap/requirement you are looking to fill. Sometimes the condition you have demands a specialist, sometimes a jack is what you need. It also depends on the type/culture of the team this person is joining.