Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wide Achiever or Highest Point of Contribution?

Two conflicting articles posted over the last few months, making their way around the internet:

The #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make
Capable people end up doing lots of projects well but are distracted from what would otherwise be their highest point of contribution which I define as the intersection of talent, passion and market. Then, both the company and the employee lose out.

Being able to do many things is important in many jobs today. Broad understanding also is a must. But developing greater discernment about what is distinctive about us can be a great advantage. Instead of simply doing more things we need to find, at every phase in our careers, our highest point of contribution.
Should We Aim to Be “Wide Achievers” in Our Careers?
Few career counselors today would advise you to be a wide achiever: they remain obsessed by the ideal of the specialist. We need to recognize that our culture of specialization conflicts with something most of us intuitively know but which career advisers are only beginning to understand: we each have multiple selves.

So it is time to challenge the reverence for the specialist that has become the workplace norm. We all know that disparaging phrase "jack-of-all-trades and master of none." But the original Jack was probably a fantastically interesting and creative person who was far happier doing multiple jobs than his friends who were stuck in narrow careers. We need a more positive term to celebrate the Jacks (and Jills) of the world: welcome to the age of the wide achiever.
So, which is it?  Or is it both?