Jack of All Trades, Master of None
Originally a compliment, the phrase has been shortened to imply that a person isn't skilful or talented in any areas.
Well, I am a walking example of it — a generalist rather than a specialist. Someone who likes to learn and do various things, while not having a specific one that you can call me “master”.
It doesn’t sound that bad right? So why is being called a “jack of all trades” a bad thing?
Society Doesn’t Understand Us
Society undervalues us. When compared to a specialist in a particular field, we often pale in comparison to their one skill that they have mastered. People often judge based on your one skill that they see rather than viewing you as you.
People also don't see "finishing" the way jacks does. After learning what we were here to learn, we move on. We haven't mastered it, and to the rest, it doesn't look like we finished learning, but we have.
If you're like me, and have a wide variety of skills but not exceptionally talented in a specific skill, do not despair. There's nothing wrong with being a jack of all trades, and let me make the case that it is a blessing in disguise.
There are some superpowers of being a jack of all trades and it's the exact reason why we are a force to be reckoned with.
#1 Accelerated Learning
Maybe like me, you can do a little bit of video editing, you understand social media management, and do some copywriting, and know how to talk well enough to get a job in any of these areas. When it comes to learning, our insatiable curiosity often leads us to absorb everything we can get our hands on. This passion for knowledge is also what drove the greats like Sir Isaac Newton to be an astronomer, a physicist, a mathematician, and an author.
With the benefits of having developed skills in various areas, it often resulted with us picking up new skills fast. We have been beginners so many times, and we bring our experiences over to the new skill.
Therefore, we are rarely starting from scratch. It makes us adept in learning, as we have developed shortcuts to consume as much knowledge as possible in the shortest time.
Who doesn't like a fast learner in their company?
#2 Reactive Adaptation
Adaptability is the ability to shapeshift your way into whatever you need to be. As a jack of all trades, you are adaptable and have more transferable skills. It means that you can take on various roles depending on the needs of your company/client.
According to Dr Max McKeown, author of Adaptability: The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty, adaptability is key to satisfying and successful work life. He believes that adaptability is one of the most critical factors as to who succeeds in today's world.
Adaptability will lead to good returns because we redivert the energy we wasted in failures into successes.
Have adaptability as part of your soft skills? You're hired.
#3 Divergent Thinking
Jacks of all trades thrive on learning, exploring, and trying to master new skills — all the time. It makes us excellent in bringing disparate ideas together and what makes us the best problem solvers.
It is the upside of being skilled in different trades, and it opens you up to divergent thinking — an ever in-demand skill. It is also the generalist who will end up running the show.
Do you think the CEO is a better marketer than the CMO? Or was Steve Jobs a better coder than the software engineers in Apple?
No. But what Steve Jobs had was a broad range of skills, and his superpower to see the interconnectedness. Jacks of all trades are the "big picture" generalists who will innovate, predict, and win. It is the reason why military generals are called generals.
Of course, in the medieval times, if you were half skilled or only decent in swordsmanship as a knight, you die. Literally.
However, in this modern time, when most industries are increasingly interconnected, the need for people who can put different skills together is on the rise. Today, if you’re a little funny, you can dance, and can put videos together, you are considered a winner.
We Can Have The Best of Both Worlds
Lucky for us, some of our fellow jacks have been hard at work, putting a positive spin on being labelled a jack of all trades as a good thing. Emilie Wapnick coined us as a multipotentialite and had her TED talk viewed over seven million times. Even in Disney’s Pixar film, The Incredibles, Jack-Jack’s superpower is, no surprise, jack of all trades!
However, to consider yourself a proper jack of all trades that we can be proud of, you must be at least well-versed and confident in the trade that you are selling. Ideally, you should be at minimum an intermediate level of skill before recognising it as your "many skills".
It is also important for us to be mindful, and put in the time, and effort into mastering at least one of the many skills we have. After all, specialisation is still prized and greatly valued. In today's day and age when you can learn almost anything from YouTube, it is pretty easy to learn new skills, and with enough effort, a master of it.
Although I am a jack of all trades, master of none, I can say that I am pretty good at some.
I believe that the world needs jacks of all trades. So if you only just realised that you are one all along, expand your horizons and remember to explore them thoroughly.
The world needs us.
Hello, I am Evan Chow, self-proclaimed “coolest” intern at Wantedly. I enjoy learning new things, and recently my curiosity got me hooked onto mastering the art of UX/UI Design. Follow me on my ‘evantures’: Instagram @evanhavent