I’ve heard of two main schools of thought when it comes to developing the right skills for your career. On one hand, there’s the belief that you need to develop highly specialized knowledge in order to land a well-paying job. For example, accountants have developed a special skill set to basically measure and disclose a company’s transactions and dealings. Actuaries have developed the ability to measure and manage risk and uncertainty. Inside knowledge of a company’s processes and procedures may also be considered a highly specialized skill. These are all highly specialized skills that take years to develop, and the market will pay a certain amount for these skills.
On the other hand, there’s another school of thought that encourages developing a broader skill set. This school of thought is more of a liberal arts approach. Broader career skill sets such as client management, project management, data analysis, sales and people management all can be applied across industries and in most companies. Many of these skills are learned on the job and are not exclusive to a certain industry or company. So, is it more important to develop a high amount of specialty in one area or to focus more on a broader skill set?
I say that we do both. A broad skill set will get our foot in the door while the specialized knowledge will help us stand out. A broad skill set will demonstrate that you are versatile, adaptable and flexible. It will show that you can wear multiple hats and take on a wide variety of responsibilities. It will also increase your chances of eventually moving up and increase your pay.
Having highly specialized knowledge will make you stand out. If you are one of the few people in this world that have special insight into how a very valuable client conducts business, you may be poached by another company that wants that knowledge. If you are the one client manager who has a deep knowledge of accounting, you may command a higher salary assuming that the additional knowledge helps with the job.
So, with all this in mind, be sure to develop your skills to the best of your ability while developing specialized knowledge that very few people have in order to make yourself indispensable. Don’t forget to contribute more value with the new skills that you’ve developed or they won’t be worth anything to your employer.
Professional Development and Personal Finance Blog