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Master of None — 5 Benefits of Being a Jack of All Trades

You know the saying, “A jack of all trades, a master of none”. Someone once said that to me, I’ll be honest, it offended me at the time. I felt that it was being stated that I could not master any skill. Now a few years later after picking up a few more skills, I have come to realise that; however the statement was meant at the time, now in 2018 being a jack of all trades is incredibly beneficial and doesn’t mean you can’t master a trade.

I realised this fully this week as I am currently looking to start writing for freelance clients, so that in the future I can provide a space where I can write (to survive), while I pursue other passions such as radio and television. Not a hint at all to any potential employers. Many people waiter while pursuing a career in the media and entertainment industry, personally I have worked as a waiter for 4 or 5 years, I feel like I may have done my time at restaurants. In addition to this, I have worked out that freelancing with the skills that I have (writing and SEO), I can make quite a bit more money than I make working a full-time job while having more free time. The risk is obviously greater but the potential for more wealth generation is also much greater.

While looking for freelance clients to start developing my writing authority while I am still working full time, I have seen almost every description ask for very similar skills. They want you to be able to write, to have SEO knowledge, to have content creation experience, to be creative, to have WordPress experience and to have knowledge of a variety of industries. If you want to work as a creative it is no longer good enough to be good at your niche. In a culture where every second company in Cape Town is a marketing or modelling agency, if you don’t look pretty you are going to need to pick up a couple of different skills.

Let me explain some of the benefits that I have experienced by unintentionally becoming a jack of all trades. In my second year of waitering, I was trying to find any other way to make money. So I thought a great idea would be to create a sport satire blog. At the time I asked my brother to create the website for me and I would run the website and work on the posts. I think it worked well, it never made any money but having run that has given me a huge advantage in interviews (I have written about this before). After that, while having gone back to waiter, I was looking for a different way to make money, so I ran into something that looked like a lot of fun, radio. The irony is it was only after a year of working in radio that I started making money from it but again I am telling you now the advantage that has given me interviews is huge. Never mind me having fallen in love with the medium. While I was doing these odd jobs I was also studying picking up a humanities degree and an English honours degree. Then after studying I decided that I wanted to learn more about video, so I took a marketing internship where I was under the impression that I would learn video, that never happened, but I did learn a few other skills. Now I am working in SEO. So I have writing experience, radio experience and SEO experience. In the past that would have been deemed a few different trades. However, for a website to rank well in search engines, google released a new algorithm change called Fred. The result of Fred is that now google crawls a website to see how relevant the content is. So what is needed is good quality content. So a content creator needs to be informed on a variety of industries. Radio and writing are both content creation experience, arguably one of the most valuable skills in 2019.

Now, what I am teaching myself is to create and edit websites on WordPress. Not because I want to work as a web-designer but because according to many people in the industry it is the best platform for usability and for SEO, so I want to be able to show that I can work with and understand the platform. I have seen a big benefit at work from having worked with WordPress before, at the company I am working at we are in the process of rolling out the platform to various clients. I believe I have been able to add value to discussions and have been able to learn a lot more quickly through this.

Over the past week I have been turning my side hustle into high gear, recording a radio demo on Saturday and creating a writing portfolio on WordPress. I have again realised the benefit of having a variety of skills. Here are some of the benefits that I have picked up from being a jack of all trades:

  1. It can make you more employable. As I have mentioned a lot of job descriptions look for a variety of skills.
  2. It is far more interesting. You get to learn more skills this way, I joke about this often but being a jack of all trades literally makes you a student of life.
  3. It improves conversation. Now when you’re at a party and someone starts talking about something in their industry, in the past you would have just left the conversation, now you can participate.
  4. It provides for more opportunities. You know those adverts that promise you millions by working online? Don’t believe them. However, when you are a jack of all trades there are more opportunities to work remotely, which can provide a more reasonable but similar dream. Key word being ‘can’ not ‘will’. There is also more potential within more traditional career growth paths. As more skills can make you more employable.
  5. It is more fun. Personally, I get bored with a lot of projects after about a year or two. So if I have a variety of skills, I can move onto the next project for the next few years before moving onto another project.

I started with the saying “a jack of all trades is a master of none”. Well, apparently the full saying is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but often times better than a master of one.” The actual saying couldn’t be more true than it is in 2019.

I have been arguing the case for being a jack of all trades, something I really do believe. I should, however, mention that this is industry and situation dependent. Naturally, your doctor needs to be an expert and you need industry experts in every field. Despite this, I still believe that being a jack of all trades is incredibly beneficial. My argument is naturally developed from my experience and my desired career path. You may have had a different experience and have a different career path, so let me know whether you think this is true for you? Or whether you have to be an expert in order to to do what you do?