I was trying to hide but you found me!

I knew a guy from way back who had this uncanny knack of always knowing a little something about most things.  Whenever the printer would break down at work, he would try and fiddle with it until it got back to working.  Another time, marketing was having problems with their ad placements and he suggested a few alternatives which I believe helped a little in solving the problem.  Yet another time, the procurement department was in a fix trying to secure a new supplier for some office automation equipment, and he volunteered to source out some possible sources.

To make a long story short, it seemed like this officemate of mine was amazing in that he was practically everywhere at the office doing almost everything, from marketing, to troubleshooting, to vendor and supplier sourcing.  For a while, he developed the reputation of being the “go-to guy” if you needed something.

It all seemed ok, up until someone actually asks what it was that he did for the office.  He was actually part of the Finance group, working closely with the paymaster.

The reason I say this was because although he seemed to be on top of everything else, it didn’t really seem like he was on top of what he was really supposed to do.  In fact, the company let him go after a couple of complaints from other employees that their salaries were mostly wrong, with some not even getting theirs a few times.  It turns out that because this officemate of mine was everywhere at once doing a lot of things, he wasn’t really all that good in keeping tabs on the payroll.

I mentioned this because it’s a great example of why it is far better to know and be immensely good at one task and be known for that fact, than to be seemingly known for many tasks, even the ones which you really aren’t all that adept in.  For the most part, this officemate of mine did try his best to help, but he wasn’t always that successful in the effort.  It was reported that the two incidents where he tried to fix a faulty printer ended in the printer being replaced altogether, because his fiddling with it only made matters worse.  The suggestions he had made to the marketing group did produce the needed media mileage the company was looking for, on top of it being more expensive.

This is a very evident example of why being a “jack-of-all-trades” isn’t all that great at all.  Being focused on one expertise enough to be exceeding good at it could definitely be more beneficial for a person than trying to be good in several other areas:

Focus

Multi-tasking may be an ability that a lot of people are striving to develop, but having a fine focus on one particular expertise is sure to pay off much, much better.  For one thing, having a fine focus on one expertise shows you can be relied on for that particular area.  Specialization is still something that is highly valued in the world of business, as it separates the real expert from those who can only pretend to be one.  Being a qualified expert on one thing also makes you an absolute authority on it, giving you a great deal of credibility and recognition for that particular expertise.

Trust

When it comes down to it and it’s your word as an expert against someone else’s, your opinion will always have more weight than most, since you have established yourself as being exceptionally good at it, and more knowledgeable on it as well.  People will definitely choose to defer to what you have to say on the matter, rather than risk being proved wrong by going against you.  In instances where there is contention and you need to mediate or prove a point, people are more likely to listen to what you have to say, or even believe you outright with very little effort on your part.

Growth

Having proven that you are a proven expert on something, you are more likely to be seen as being able to become an expert in other areas as well, since you already have a track record of proven success.  It is not uncommon for people to excel in multiple areas once they mastered one specific skill or expertise, and you are also more likely to succeed in becoming a multi-discipline expert than those who have yet to prove that they are real experts in anything but profess to know a lot in different areas of expertise.

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