Long before I realized that some considered being a “Jack of all trades” a negative, I used to refer to myself as one all the time. For a short time I even thought that I had originated the appending phrase “Master of some.” (rather than the often appended “Master of none”.)
One day someone mentioned to me that being a Jack of all trades was seen as a negative which caught me by surprise. I hadn’t heard of this before. He explained that people saw it as being unfocused, unspecialized, and never truly a master of any one skill. This was not how I saw things at all so naturally I searched the Internet to see what others really thought or if this was just his opinion alone. I found that this seems to be a disputed view point. Have a look at some of these articles I came across.
Knowing your purpose and being in the right role could mean the difference between your firm’s being just another startup or the next member of the unicorn club, a company value at $1 billlion or more.
When you are marketing dozens of things about yourself, a/k/a being a Jack-of-all-trades, you overwhelm hiring managers. In fact, you distract them to the point they are unable to see you as a match. Not only do you appear overqualified, but they may also assume you are overpriced as well
In favor of:
Know enough to talk fluently with someone who is a specialist in that area. This way you will be able to identify problems, taking care of minor ones and communicating bigger issues to the right specialists. You can be the person who sees the big picture and understands how all the parts interrelate.
In a world of dogmatic specialists, it’s the generalist who ends up running the show. Is the CEO a better accountant than the CFO or CPA? Was Steve Jobs a better programmer than top coders at Apple? No, but he had a broad range of skills and saw the unseen interconnectedness. As technology becomes a commodity with the democratization of information, it’s the big-picture generalists who will predict, innovate, and rise to power fastest. There is a reason military “generals” are called such.
You’ve probably heard the derogatory saying “Jack of all trades, master of none.” It implies that by trying to learn many things, you give up mastery of any of them. Quora designer David Cole says this is a myth.
So in short, what I found in my searching is that being skilled in many areas is seen as a negative by some people but seen as a positive by others.
But because there are people out there that see it as a negative though I have decided to remove the phrase from my vocabulary. Honestly though, myself, I see it as a positive trait. As long as that “Jack of all trades” is able to openly acknowledge their weak areas and emphasize their strongest areas.
What do you think?