Why the “Jack of All Trades” Will Always be MVP
Many people are familiar with the shapewear brand Spanx, but what many may not know is the inspiring story behind the successful company’s Founder and CEO, Sara Blakely. Blakely turned a $5,000 investment into over one billion in profits, becoming one of history’s most celebrated self-made female billionaires. In fact, in 2014, Forbes listed her as the 93rd most powerful woman in the world.
Blakely’s success and passion to support other women is truly inspiring; however, it’s her humble beginnings that speak loudest to me. In a recent video interview with Business Insider, she explains:
“Growing up, my father would ask my brother and me at the dinner table what we had failed at … he celebrated it. He’d actually be disappointed if I didn’t have something that I’d failed at that week. I can remember saying ‘Dad, dad! I tried out for this and I was horrible,’ and he would actually high five me and say, ‘Congratulations, way to go.’ It reframed my definition of failure. Failure for me became not trying, versus the outcome.”
The Jack of All Trades: A Coveted Asset for the Ever-Changing Enterprise
What I love most about this story is that learning to not just accept but embrace failure is what led to this billionaire’s success. This enabled Blakely to really have a “jack of all trades” mentality—a desire to fearlessly try anything in hopes of achieving her personal and professional goals. This kind of attitude is invaluable today, especially within the enterprise.
I don’t believe enough people in the enterprise perceive failure as a stepping stone; rather, they see it as an end of the road and therefore something to avoid. More people need to start seeing the opportunities afforded by becoming a jack of all trades. Here’s why:
Business is constantly changing: It’s no longer sustainable in business to hire someone who just does one thing. Companies today seek employees who are willing to adapt alongside their company. Organizations want eclectic team members who are open to the idea of starting out in one area of business and ending up in another. The expectation isn’t that an employee will start out in communications and end up in R&D. But that employee may want to learn more about sales or design, and that’s not impossible to conceive (or achieve).
At the end of the day, being able to think outside of your specialty and hone in on other skills will significantly help your organization. “Jack of all trades” employees help organizations become lean, mean machines that can deliver the most positive business outcomes.
Challenge yourself to become your best you: Being exposed to different things challenges you to become a more logical thinker, to see situations from multiple angles, and to identify a solution that is most effective. When you open yourself up to learning different areas of business—even areas you’re not completely comfortable in—it inevitably broadens your thinking and widens your lens. Not only this, but it’s more rewarding to get involved in multiple areas of business. In doing so, you’ll emerge as more of an invaluable team member; and you’ll enjoy the variety at work verses siloing yourself. You’ll find greater satisfaction and purpose in the work you do.
The One Thing You Need to Become a Jack of All Trades
It’s not one person’s idea that transforms a company; it’s a team of people working cohesively together, combining their different experiences and skills, to create a powerful outcome. For example, I may have many ideas, but that doesn’t mean they’re good ideas—they’re simply my ideas. If someone has a better idea, I want to hear it. If someone is skilled at something outside of their job description, I want to see it. The power of the collective is what companies need to succeed.
It may seem daunting to put yourself out there—to share your ideas or learn new skill sets—but you need to in order to personally grow and further business. It’s not difficult to get started; in fact, you only need one thing to become a jack of all trades: curiosity. There are no other rules to follow. There is no particular skill set that you need to focus on building. Similarly, there are no specific ideas you must share; it simply depends on what you want to explore and be a part of.
So, the key to becoming a jack of all trades is to simply offer yourself up. Put your hand in the air. Share an idea you have for improvement. Ask “why?” Send an email to your manager. Ask if you can begin sitting in on calls. These small acts of passion are what management looks for and loves. On the other hand, if you don’t show signs of curiosity, you’ll always be bypassed.
Is the status quo OK for you? If it is, remember that it’s not OK for your employer or your career. Think outside of the box and remember that our failures are really stepping stones to our greatest successes. True and long-lasting failure only comes from never having the courage to try.