Mastery or becoming a master of your own work or profession is proven to bring greater satisfaction and happiness in our lives and as a result there are many articles or books on the subject matter, including: How to Achieve Career Mastery. On the other hand, variety or diversification can also bring fulfillment because of how it increases our experiences which enhances our perspective on work, projects, and life. The question is: What is the best way to optimize balance between diversification and mastery?
I’ve deeply struggled with this because I have many different interests ranging from business, marketing, product management, social media, online business and marketing, real estate, franchises, financial markets, etc. and balancing effort between learning and gaining experience in each of these fields is highly difficult. There is always a trade-off. And placing time and energy into one area is sacrificing time and energy that could be spent elsewhere. Coming out of my undergrad program I spent 2 years managing properties because I really wanted to understand the ins and outs of owning and growing a rental property portfolio. I also wanted to understand the online world and so I went from there to working as a campaign manager in charge of PPC and SEO campaigns for small businesses. Now I am back in the MBA program further developing and fine tuning my business and marketing skills.
Something that I’ve realized is that employers desire a candidate with a T structure background. On one side of the T, they want a specific skill or technical background that has been well-developed. The candidate has gained lots of experience around this skill and is becoming or has become a master in this one area of expertise. On the other side of the T, companies want someone who has dissimilar backgrounds or a diverse amount of experience. This experience can include different industries, products, or business models. It could be an international or cultural perspective. This experience can even be from hobbies or interests that are completely unrelated to the project at hand. I am a strong believer in hobbies as illustrated in my post: Why are hobbies so important. This various background provides a change of insights and brings a variance in perspective that ultimately brings additional value to any project.
Recipe for success: Achieve mastery in one area and many experiences in a number of other diverse areas.
I would say my expertise area is around the subject of business (mainly marketing) and the majority of my experience in some way enriches my business knowledge. However, as I continue my career, this expertise will gain a narrow focus (possibly around product management or brand management.) The struggle will always be there in choosing whether to focus my time and efforts on further developing and fine-tuning my expertise or on gaining more diverse experience elsewhere. Even with my current hobbies or planned investment activities there is the dilemma of focusing on what I know or doing something new to increase my capabilities. Ultimately we should focus on our passions and continue to grow our knowledge, skills, and experiences on both sides of the T.