Jack of all trades, but master of one

I’ve interviewed a lot of jacks of all trades, masters of none. The problem is, they can’t do the one thing we need done really well, so we always pass. I’m starting to realize that we’re looking for the Jack (or Jane) of all trades, but master of one. They have at least one function that they focus on and absolutely kick ass at. 

At a startup, employees perform a lot of functions. I think that people oftentimes confuse an employee like that as a jack of all trades, master of none. But in reality, when we hire someone we’re looking for the best candidate for a specific role. In a scenario where both candidates are good at hustling, we’ll always take someone who’s specifically very good at marketing, for example, over someone who’s okay at a lot of things, but not great at any one given thing.

It’s important to ask yourself these questions:

“Who’s going to be the best at growing your userbase? An average marketer or the best marketer you can find?”

“ Who’s going to be part of a marketing team you’re building long term, someone who loves marketing or someone who just likes it?”

“Who’s going to build you the best possible product? A product manager who just dabbles in product, along with everything else, or someone who absolutely loves and kicks ass at it?”

If I were thinking about my career in the startup world, I’d think about the one area in which I could be the best. Would I be a great marketer or a great product person or something else? Then, I’d do the everything I could to be the best at that role. Whenever we interview someone who’s jumped from product, to marketing, to something else, we’re not sure how to think of how they’d fit in our company long term. At a certain point, the Jane of all trades need to focus on something, and when that happens, will she be the best person for that role? Just like most things, focus is really important. If I were getting started in the tech world, I'd think about where I could truly excel and focus on that. 

6 responses
Like this perspective but it's not considering the fact that people often jump around when figuring out what they like and are best at. You simply need to be able to explain why you went from one area to another. You need a compelling story. My experience suggests that in a company with
Dig the post and from an employee (or soldier) standpoint, sound advice. If you prove yourself in what you were brought on to do (aka beating your #'s), your contributions across the rest of the org should be welcomed with open arms. If you fail to do so, might as well walk the plank ;) Often consider myself an "intrapreneur" and to successfully do so, you 1) beat your role than 2) contribute elsewhere where your passions lead you + where your efforts are welcome.
Thanks, Brandon. Completely agree - got to be really good in your focus area, since you're the owner of it. Then, other help is welcome too. Jon, agreed that it's okay to move around and a story for why you move is helpful too. The key is that from a hiring standpoint, you'll be looking to hire whomever is best in x function. If the best person happened to have jumped around, that works. If not, they may not get that specific position.
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