I was once told I needed to be careful. I was becoming a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I brushed it off in the moment, but later thought about it and it really did start to worry me. In fact, it bothered me for a good long while after I was told that. My thought process had always been that the more you can do, the more valuable you are, especially to an organization. Was I completely wrong? From that cautionary statement, it sure seemed like I wasn’t just headed down a terribly wrong road, I had been on it for years. It’s important to understand a few things.
- The person who said these words to me wasn’t being mean.
- She knew me very well.
- We had worked together for several years.
- She meant well…I think.
For some context, I had been working at a church for a number of years. At this point, I was doing information technology, networking, telecom, media, creative planning, worship, playing an instrument, events and conferences, weaving baskets, acting, set construction, and so on. Ok, maybe not the weaving baskets part. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.
I think that exact moment, I was under the desk fishing a telephone cable. Casual conversation is always welcome as you’re laying on the ground getting dusty and filthy while helping someone fix some minor thing. We were talking about who knows what exactly, but usually our conversations turned to “how did you learn how to do all this stuff?” Today was one of those days. I just explained that I learned over time in different situations and different jobs that had exposed me to various types of work. Over time, you just learn things. A lot of the stuff is the same across different job titles anyway in the world I work. But, for someone that doesn’t do what I do, they don’t understand that reality.
So, she didn’t understand my reality anyway. Why did it bother me so bad what she said? Well, at that time, I was a lot younger than I am now. That’s not much of an excuse, I know. But it’s true what they say, with age comes wisdom. Or something like that. At the time though, I believed what she was saying and thought I had potentially sabotaged my career and maybe even my life. I regretted not becoming a specialist in some specific field related to my job and it almost crushed my spirit. Almost.
One thing you should always remember: not everything everyone says relates to you. Even if they said it, trying to relate it to you. They probably just don’t really know. Sometimes people say things. Well meaning things. They say them with the best intentions. Sometimes people just blather on for no reason. Those are the people you should probably never listen to anyway. But this woman cared about me, she was my friend. She wouldn’t just talk to hear her own voice. And she certainly wouldn’t say something to intentionally lead me astray or make me feel as though I had wasted my life. She was just not really the person to give me career advice. My line of work and her line of work were very different. And yes, we both worked at the same organization, but we had very different roles.
It’s ok to specialize. It’s ok not to specialize. It really just depends on what you’re planning to do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a foot doctor doing a heart transplant if I ever need one. I don’t want an eye doctor trying to give me a root canal. I really just don’t ever want a root canal. They are all doctors. What does it matter? It obviously matters a lot. You and I both know that. But not EVERY job is that specialized. Mine certainly isn’t.
Within my job responsibilities, I do have an area that I am the strongest. I’m not talking about leadership or delegation or principles related to management. That’s entirely different. I think all leaders should develop skills in those areas. I’m talking about trained skills related to the product you or your team produces. I am a video guy. That’s not the norm for people in my role. Most people that have my job title are audio engineers. I have enough of a comprehension of all the areas under my leadership that I can speak into them. But, I am not an expert on any one of my areas of responsibility, not even video. That’s just my strongest area. I have people That’s the beauty of it though, I don’t have to me. I have people around me that ARE the experts in their area. I have the audio guy, the lighting guy, the technical nerds, the video people, the live production people, etc. It’s called a team.
It took a number of years for the concern of her caution to wear off. Ironically, now I understand that the thing that makes me able to lead the team is that I am a Jack of all trades. I know my weaknesses and strengths. I let others do their jobs. I trust them to get the job done. I don’t try to be a “know it all. ” I am a “know enough.” And to think I almost changed up what I was doing, who I was, and the road I was headed down over a simple conversation while replacing a cable under a desk.
God tells us that there is wisdom in godly counsel. I believe that. Sometimes people offering unsolicited advise is hardly godly counsel. You have to carefully navigate that and learn how to spot the difference. Generally speaking though, don’t let someone’s well meaning advice knock the wind out of your sails. They probably weren’t trying to deflate you. Honestly, I’m not certain people casually offering their insight or perspective give it enough thought for you to really put much stock in it. They maybe just shouldn’t have offered their perspective.