Have you ever felt that you’re really good at a lot of things but not a specialist in one area? Does that fill you with worry and a lack of confidence in your career path? Yep, me too.
Well, rest assured I’ve done the research and it turns out this isn’t a negative thing and in fact a very normal way of positioning yourself.
The traditional career path of staying in one role and slowly but steadily climbing the ladder is being pulled down, with many, especially millennials, favouring a lattice approach. This means, instead of moving up, you essentially move sideways and diagonally to gain skills and experience from a range of different roles. Progression comes from identifying gaps in your own skillset, then searching for positions that tick those boxes.
This is not only beneficial for you, but for your employer too. From the employer’s perspective, allowing staff to move between departments keeps talent in the company for longer, while boosting the employees feeling of worth, motivation and overall productivity. You know that old (kind of sexist, but let’s not get into it here) saying ‘Happy wife, happy life’? That literally can be applied to your work. The happier and less worried you feel about your career, the better you will perform. So don’t be afraid of change in order to keep you happy and proactive.
This style of progression has become so mainstream that experts have conducted studies and written books about the practice. One such book is The Squiggly Career by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, which is a guide that outlines how playing to your strengths and highlighting your values can lead to an unconventional yet fruitful and rewarding career path. Learn to let go of the voice in yourself saying ‘I should be following this specific route to succeed’ because these days, your personalised route is the best there is.
From sleuthing LinkedIn and other career portals, it’s obvious that advertising yourself with myriad roles and skills is also the new norm. Long gone is the singular job title. I see writers that are content creators, editors and creative directors all at once, as well as researchers who also analyse trends and are retail specialists too. It makes sense. If you’re actively looking for a new job, why pigeon hole yourself to recruiters as a single entity? I know and you know, that you can mould yourself into a hundred different positions if you want to, so pitch yourself as that and be confident in your abilities.
Maggie Mattioni is a Design Consultant but has nine different roles and skills outlined on her LinkedIn bio. I asked her a few questions about career progression and why it’s important to show that you’re skilled in a range of areas.
Why do you have a range of roles outlined in your LinkedIn bio?
My first role in 1994 the director told me, never pigeon hole yourself into one area or one field – show you can do everything and that has always stayed with me.
What are the advantages of being a specialist in lots of areas instead of just one?
You can do the job of many and you also understand how long it takes, so when you ask someone to do something, you know what goes into that work. It also opens you up for more opportunities.
Hiya, me again – just jumping in here! This is a great point of view and will be a fantastic way to showcase in interviews how your experience proves you’re perfect for the role in question.
Do you favour the traditional ladder career path or a lattice style? And why?
I suppose it depends on the company and you as an individual. For me personally, I have always liked moving, I think when you are a designer you need to stay creative. I have worked in so many companies where a designer will say “Oh that won’t work. We did that 10 years ago and it just didn’t sell” – that’s when you realise that the designer has stayed too long – you always need to stay ahead, stay innovative and push yourself.
What advice would you give young fashion professionals starting their career, in terms of gaining as much experience as possible?
Be prepared for hard work and long hours and gain as much experience as possible – try to understand everything you can about your industry and NEVER stop learning.
Never stop learning is such an important takeaway. A quick Google search will pull up loads of free courses that you can use to fill those skill gaps. Remember, career progression doesn’t have to just come from your 9-5, and these days, employers are looking for that extra bit of experience that separates you from the rest. Shout about these achievements and passion projects in your LinkedIn bio. The myth that being a Jack of all trades, master of none is a bad thing and is in fact A MYTH.
Having a wealth of different abilities should bring you confidence in your career path, not worry. A lot of these negative feelings are probably coming from not knowing how to collate all your experience into one cohesive story. Are you thinking that your CV looks like an unfinished dot-to-dot rather than a slick portrait? Pepper Your Talk offers one-tone CV editing sessions that will help streamline and showcase all of your amazing (and it is amazing, so keep telling yourself that) experience and skills.
You can start putting all this experience together by downloading our FREE CV checklist
One last snippet from me – stop comparing yourself to others. It’s healthy to find industry professionals that inspire you but you don’t have to copy their career path. Hard work and dedication pay off, but often it’s a case of ‘right time, right place’ so don’t kick yourself if you’re not where you think you should be. Everyone is different, that’s what makes this industry so exciting to work in.
Words by Joanna Standley