It’s been a business buzzword since self-help business books first hit the press – Niche. Having a niche talent in a niche industry will raise you out of the doldrums of an underpaid, under appreciated career. If you’re specialized enough then someone will surely want your talents. Especially if that specialization is on the up like mobile app development and not on the down like lawyering and litigating… Right?
While I believe the end goal of any career is to become the best you can be, somewhere along the way that meant specializations took over and room for creative endeavor took a back seat. To see the end game of any project a worker needs to set benchmarks. If that worker has no experience outside of his or her comfort zone (and skills), they will simply follow the benchmarks already set. That worker will in essence follow a formula with little to no margin of error. And little to no margin of change.
This is where learning new skills is insanely valuable for one’s own career development. I work in a field of marketing where one must wear many hats. Unless I’m at an agency where my skills can be dictated to a few monotonous projects in a silo, I need to not only wear many hats but I need to get better at wearing these hats.
Steve Jobs – World’s greatest chairman… Marketer… And designer?
Steve Jobs didn’t take Apple to where it was without reaching his work into areas he had no business in. How can the most heralded tech leader of all time also be considered one of the greatest designers and marketers of all time? It’s not like he graduated from the Wharton School of Marketing with an apprenticeship under a top designer. Steve Jobs simply had a passion for simplicity and art. He studied eastern philosophies and sat in on Stanford classes on subjects like typography (fonts). He didn’t let his career successes in tech dictate what he wanted to learn.
In the end his unorthodox approach towards simplistic design and the insistence that he knew customers better than customers knew themselves is largely responsible for the reason why your bathroom sessions consist of playing on an iPad. His hugely unorthodox and successful approach to business never would have came about if he didn’t reach into various other skills.
Silo work environment? More like solo work environments
One can never depend on a team member to lay everything perfectly out for you. While your team may specialize in their own fields, synergy is best when you all understand the whole process. Being in digital marketing means I always have to be a step ahead what clients see. If I want to create great email campaigns I need to have the chops to piece together HTML. If I want to be a step ahead in social media, I need to know the overall web environment where trends are going. If I want to be able to update marketing content on websites I need to know basic design and copy as a safety measure. Because the industry is so intertwined, I need to constantly practice across the board by writing, developing, designing, communicating with customers and more.
While you may be comfortable in a certain industry doing your cushy job, you may look to find out that your field won’t be expected to exist in a decade. Your job will be replaced by analytical thinkers with the chops for critical thinking and an arsenal of software skills. Does anyone really expect a field like social media to be “up and coming” in a decade? The days of self proclaimed gurus that are just good at Tweeting will likely be replaced by analytically efficient (but creative) workers that can accurately communicate with customers and estimated brand power on the fly. AKA you better know more about Twitter (or whatever social networks comes our way in a decade) than hashtags. #forreal
Can you learn too many skills?
No. You will naturally feel more comfortable in certain tasks than others. As long as you keep practicing several (related) fields you will begin to see them interconnect in your day to day work life. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the overall picture will begin to be seen. Once you see that overall picture it’s time to take on harder puzzles (projects)… Like those awesome 3D puzzles.