Jack Of All Trades


“So what’s your dream job?,”
the business owner asked me during a recent interview, after a few softball warm-up type of questions.

The question, asked in such a way, is designed to surprise you into revealing yourself. Are you just looking for a paycheck? Are you in it for the long haul? Are you just wasting the interviewer’s time? Or are you the perfect fit for their open position? It is a way for them to probe your motivations.

But this particular question caught me off guard probably more than most. You see, I am the proverbial “jack of all trades” kind of guy. I excel in multiple disciplines – audio production, video production, graphic arts, music performance and production, other technical arts like lighting, projection, system design and optimization, organizational strategy, branding and marketing. I’m a constant learner absorbing knowledge on a whole range of topics and genres. I also have experience and skill in full time ministry (though I would stop short of terming it a “calling”). I also have a teaching bent – and love to share what I’ve learned with others in both formal and informal settings.

“So what’s your dream job?”

The bottom line is, I could be genuinely happy in many different kinds of positions. I would pursue excellence diligently in all of them. But I think my Jack-Of-All-Trades-ness stumps potential employers. What do they do with me? They can’t neatly categorize me. My resume appears to jump from discipline to discipline (even though the truth is I actively engage all these disciplines simultaneously regardless of my position title or job description).

Rather than the specific job description, the thing that motivates me more than anything is MISSION. I need to believe that what the organization is doing makes a difference. I need to know that my contribution helps the organization accomplish its mission.

So what does it all mean? I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it out.

Anybody need an experienced Jack of All Trades?

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14 Comments on “Jack Of All Trades”

  1. jermtech Says:

    [Comment via Facebook]
    “I know exactly how you feel. And the irony is that all businesses/organizations wish they had someone like you. But come hiring time, you don’t fit neatly in a box, so they don’t know how to compare you to others or to a job description.” – Steve Young

  2. kylee Says:

    The problem lies in the fact that when employers hear you describe yourself as a “Jack of all trades…” they automatically attach “..and master of none” to the end. There are a lot of individuals like you out there that are honestly good at a lot of different disciplines and maybe have focused on one or another at different points professionally while still keeping busy in your personal life. A lot of employers value all these different assets, but they don’t like to think they might be hiring someone who is “pretty good” at this task. They want to know they are hiring someone who is an expert. When you have a portfolio filled to the brim with all these different things and a tagline behind your name that’s stuffed with multimedia keywords, it makes you seem like you lack focus.

    It really matters how you market yourself. Are you a audio-visual-teaching-organizing-marketing-graphic designing-guru, or are you a multimedia professional? And are you REALLY at the forefront of all of these things at all times? To be fair, not a lot of people are the best at everything. To be an expert, you have to update yourself daily and practice your craft nonstop. All those things you have listed – are you a top notch expert at all of them? Do you know every nuance and update every single day? You may be doing all this and really be amazing, I have no idea, I don’t hire people. I’m just being rhetorical.

    Here’s my situation: I love video (namely post) so I’ve never really had too much trouble with developing a main focus, but I do have a lot of talents. I could fairly sufficiently fill a lot of roles and be pretty happy with it. I do have a DREAM job, yes, so I can’t exactly compare it to what you’re saying in your post, but I have other talents. When I market myself to employers, I approach them as a post-production professional. The only stuff I put on my website is post stuff. I have a small section of my site where I toss side projects that are irrelevant to keep it fresh, but it’s not at all the focus. It’s an afterthought. It gets few clicks. I definitely make sure to mention I know all this other stuff in my resume as supporting evidence that I’m awesome, and it gets brought up in interviews, but my portfolio and demo reel are the absolute main attraction.

    Even though you’d be honestly happy in all these roles, you might want to consider picking one, building yourself up as the absolute authority on that discipline, and marketing yourself as a guru of that (with some supporting evidence of everything else).

    • jermtech Says:

      Great thoughts here, Kylee. Gave me lots to think about. In interviews, I have always answered people who ask about that this way, “Audio is my home base – I am the most knowlegable and comfortable there and my education is focused there… but either by professional necessity or personal curiosity I have also learned and become highly proficient in the other discplines.”

      • kylee Says:

        That’s a good way to put it. When you go to interviews, are they for an audio job? Or is it for something else and you tell them that’s your main focus? If you focused on that discipline and pursued jobs more specific to that, perhaps you would have better luck. And if you retooled your website to be focused on audio, it would support this claim when employers checked into your portfolio. They wouldn’t go “Well, he said he’s an audio person, but clearly he’s been doing all kinds of other stuff so there’s no way he’s really THAT big of an expert..” Employers are cynical.

        If you come to someone as a full package filled with audio goodness, and the other stuff supports your background in awesomeness, they know that 1) You’re the expert in audio they need and 2) You’re pretty dang good at the other stuff if the need should arise…or at least if you have to work with other people on projects you’ll interface with them very well because you speak their language.

        I forgot to mention/disclaimer that this is just stuff I commonly hear all the time and heard all the time in school. Focus is more important than a grab bag of talent. Like…if you REALLY want a set of amazing speakers and you have an unlimited budget..are you more likely to go to a specialty audio store, or Walmart? Walmart has everything! They have speakers. Maybe even some decent ones..maybe. But the specialty store…it envelops you with warmness when you walk in, you have a nice experience, and you KNOW get what you need. It’s like that.

        You know what? You should just go get a masters degree and teach audio production at a university. THAT would be the bomb.

    • Steven Says:

      Completely agree with Kylee. Yes, that just happened. 😉

      I had a similar issue, but later come to find out that the reason why my resume looked so scattered was one word: confidence. I knew I was good at a lot of things but never believed I was the best at anything, and it showed…but anyway…

      Fast forward to now, I can confidently say that I am where I need to be and with a team that is the best at it. It’s almost a case of having to just choose a horse to ride before they all scatter and you’re left with nothing. You could even create a couple of resumes that are focused on each area such us audio, video, graphics, etc. so if you interview with someone in that specific field, it is laser focused on what you’ve done in that practice, with all the other specialties taking a minimal role.

      I agree with Kylee, when employers are hiring they have (nay, should have) a specific thing in mind they need you to do, and want you to do it better than everyone else. The up and down side of having your experience is that it worked great in a church where it’s volunteer driven and you need to know about everything at least enough to direct and oversee everything media. What changes when you go into a corporate setting is that people usually hire for SPECIFICS. They usually hire a web programmer, web designer, social media manager, etc. Companies that hire someone to do every possible task drive me nuts and is a bad sign that they lack focus as a company and culture, that’s another topic, however.

      My 2 cents for standing out in the crazy “buyers market” economy is to focus on your “WHY.” What I mean by that is that you know your strengths, you have hopefully articulated them well on paper and in a presentation. Great…now WHY would someone hire you and WHY are you doing what you do? I am running into this more and more of companies focusing on the WHY. The best way to differentiate yourself isn’t only your formal education or list of software proficiencies, it’s your WHY. If you can powerfully convey a vision, mission, and values you will stand out from the others just looking for a job. It will show focus, confidence and depth.

      Remember people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it.
      Watch at least the first 5 minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4
      If will shift the way you think.

      • kylee Says:

        I agree with Steven. I’ll give you a line break to savor this because it’ll never happen again.

        As I said in another post, I’m not sure that a bunch of tailored resumes will solve anything. People live online. When they get your information, they go to Google and look you up. They find your twitter feed, linked in, blog posts, etc. They go to your website. They get an idea of you as a person from all this. Like Steven said – are you confident? Do you come across like you have 100% confidence in yourself? Do you give them a great reason to not hit delete right away?

        In our business, everyone probably ignores basically everything you send them except your URL and name. If they like what they see, they’ll check out your supporting evidence to see if you really would be a good fit. But if you send a video production company a resume saying you’re the best video person in the whole world, and your website is a catch-all of videoaudiographicswebohandalsoicansew, a lot of them won’t take you seriously. You should look like a person, not a production studio.

        A lot of students end up doing this kind of portfolio because they don’t have enough stuff to fill out one discipline.

        Of course, other people will have other things to say about this.

        Like Steven said, corporations and companies in general are looking for specifics. And of course, the why factor. Everything ultimately comes down to “Who are you and WHY should I even care?” Most people don’t really give a good answer for that, which means you should answer it over and over.


  3. Jeremy,

    Your dream job may not be a specific task, have a unique title or fit in an existing department. But your dream job should exceed that you “could be genuinely happy in many different kinds of positions”. This is not about happiness; this is about passion! This is about fired-up, excited and contagious joy for that which you are called to do!

    Yeah, I said it: called. You have a calling on your life. You were created to fulfill unique purposes for different seasons of your life. Above, you said “I would stop short of terming it a ‘calling'”. Why? If you don’t know what your calling is, I have great news for you: you CAN know. Just ask!

    Jeremy, the Lord has given you the capacity to do many things well. That’s great. But the total is greater than the sum of the parts. You can – and should – be asking if this is a season of “tent building” (like Paul) or if He’s waiting on you to take a step of faith. You are prepared ‘for such a time as this’ – now find out what that first step looks like.

    Blessings,

    Anthony

    • jermtech Says:

      Thank you for the spiritual challenge, Anthony! A lot to think and pray about.

      I avoid the word “calling” only as it relates to full-time ministry. In other words, I could use my gifts in an organization I feel passionate about and feel completely content. An example would be like Dave Ramsey’s organization. (To which I have applied for 5 different positions). Some would argue it is a para-church ministry, but the bottom line is it is a private business whose mission I resonate with. If I could use my gifts to serve an organization like that, it would be awesome.

      So I guess it depends how you use the word “calling”. If you use it in the traditional sense of being “called to the ministry” than I can say no – I don’t necessarily think I am (although I’d be happy to serve another church again.) In other words – I think of myself as a techie first, not a Pastor first.


  4. Hi Jeremy,

    I’ve always described myself as a Leatherman tool: same story as you describe. There are a number of areas that I can claim legitimate expertise, and an additional list that I can claim competence, but not expertise.

    I’ve always assumed what Kylee says: If I claim to be a jack of all trades, it is interpreted as only a dabbler, a hobbyist, a rookie in all the trades.

    But when I answer the question in an interview, I try to tailor the answer to whatever we’re interviewing about. “I’m an expert in this, with skills and experience in these related fields,” even if I’m actually better in those related fields. Occasionally, it will come out as, “I can do anything in these arenas, but my strengths are here and here,” again targeting my actual skills / experience to the job we’re interviewing about. Or it could be, “I can supervise the big picture, but I have the expertise to step in and do any of this.”

    One of the most dangerous things to do in SOME interviews (and I never know which ones) is to appear more skilled than the interviewer.

    You’ve had to translate “tech” to and from other languages before: “leadership speak” or “vision speak.” A lot of what is communicated there is what is not said (“I gotta figure out exactly how to do that” or “Now I need more volunteers.”) Find the interviewer’s language, his (her?) real felt need, and address that. And while you’re at it, listen for their handle on their mission. Interview them while they interview you.

    On the topic of Mission: http://j.mp/8YsyxH

    It would be so much easier, sometimes, if we didn’t need to deal with PEOPLE.

    You rock sir!

    • kylee Says:

      Right…your various resumes and cover letters and interview answers should be tailored to the specific job. However, when it comes to media, I don’t really think it works so well to go after a big variety of jobs. You can only effectively market and brand yourself in one way, I think. Your online persona has to support what you say in person, and if your going after a huge variety of work, it’s going to be spread too thin.

  5. Stephen Says:

    kylee…you raised the issue of searching the web for info on candidates. It is true that this happens a lot. And, I’m not saying that you are advocating it…these are just some thoughts. If a candidate provides a website as an extension to their resume, or, as a portfolio…fine. But, googling a candidate, while “legal” is a grey area. Using social media (e.g., facebook) to research a candidate without their written consent is just asking for a lawsuit. (And, is probably a violation of Facebook’s usage policy.) The problem is that by actively searching, you are seeking out information about the candidate. If you come across information that is not relevant to the job, and which would be illegal to ask about in an interview (e.g., “Are you married?”) and the candidate believes that the information has been used against him…your company is now quite vulnerable. Best practice is to get prior written consent (put it on the job application form) to do an internet search on the candidate. Even then, I wouldn’t do a search unless you’ve narrowed the candidates down to a very small number. Use it as a final check, not as a filter. Otherwise you are a prime candidate for legal action.

    • Kylee Says:

      While I’m sure there are a lot of law people out there that would recommend against this, this point of view is already dated. Employers would be dumb not to do a search on a potential employee and see what pops up, and they do. I recently went on an interview with a huge multi-national corporation and the interviewer brought up that they had found and enjoyed my Twitter feed, and congratulated me for locking down my FB page. This lead to great conversation about the content I was putting out through Twitter and my blog, as well as the other stuff I have online. I nurture my first page Google results because in multimedia, I know they’re looking.

      The information is out there, and people are going to look at it. I would bet it would be very difficult to win a case against an employer over privacy interest when the private items are all over the Internet in non-secure areas. I don’t recall hearing of any cases where the candidate was successful in this, but if you can cite one I’d like to read it.

      The point – yea, employers shouldn’t go searching for you on Google to try and dig up every bit of dirt, accept every single item as true, and hold it against you. But this venue exists and it’s a very very good way to get an overall visualization of this person before you meet them, so you should control the information as best you can.

      (And controlling the information that can be found is not difficult.)

  6. Mike Sessler Says:

    I ran into the same problem some years ago before my first TD position came about. Most of my career was spent in professional video production, however I was also an entrepreneur—having started 3 companies— had a bit of a marketing bent, loved audio, and had a knack for home construction. It was a bit of a midlife crisis of sorts; I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do next.

    The advice I received over and over from my job-networking mentors was to tailor a series of resumes and cover letters toward various fields I would enjoy working in. If I saw a job posting for a marketing position at a company I wanted to work for, I send them my marketing resume and talked up how my experience made me a unique fit for them.

    The biggest thing for me was to begin to identify a target company list; rather than figure out what I wanted to do, I started to figure out where I wanted to do it. I’m super-adaptable and can be successful in a variety of roles, so rather than limit myself to job descriptions, I went after companies.

    The strategy worked; I eventually got hired by an ad agency that was on my target list. It turned out to be a bad fit and I was gone 2 months later, but that led to the church I was attending hiring me as the TD and a new career was born.

    I think these days, we need to become less failure averse when it comes to jobs. Gone are the days when you work for a single company for the duration of your career. People and companies are trying to navigate a whole new job market, and sometimes things don’t work out as we hoped. Accept it and move on. At the same time, we can’t be afraid to try new jobs and companies on for size.

    The key is to speak with confidence, and talk directly to the needs the company is facing. Say you’re applying for an video editor position; talk up your skills as a video editor, but also mention your significant background in audio—most video guys are not good at audio. That makes you a much more interesting candidate. Also, your passion is mission; find companies whose mission you can get behind and tell the interviewer how you would advance their mission. Previous experience is one indicator of future performance, but employers really want to know what you will do for them when you get there.

    Hope that helps…


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