T-Shaped Career

I’ve been asked many times whether I’m a generalist or a specialist, and I’ve always struggled to put my self on one side or the other of the divide. Turns out there is a way to describe someone who has elements of both in their career.

T-shaped. The stem of the T applies to the specialist part of your career: your field of expertise or the subject you can go deep on. For me that’s digital. The top of the T applies to the more generalist part of your career, the areas across which you have some knowledge and can collaborate on, often with more of an emphasis on the soft skills.

In my case I know something about, and have worked on projects in, branding, design, marketing communications, human resources and content creation. Most often these projects have had a digital dimension, although I worked on a marketing campaign for Schiphol airport many years ago that was distinctly not digital. (But included a visit to the air-side of Schiphol without buying a ticket which was cool). So the top of my T is communications.

It occurred to me the same pattern exists in relation to other fields. Someone might be interested in sports generally but fanatical about football, another person may love art, but have significant expertise in a single period of art or focus on one medium. Even social justice issues might land the same pattern. If you are against one form of justice then you are against all forms of injustice. That’s the top of the T, but there’s very likely a particular cause that you go deep on: in my darker moments I suspect it’s whatever part of your identity is most likely to get you killed.

But thinking of my career as T-shaped helped me rethink where to focus a recent job search and where I want to spend time developing new skills. It’s also changed how I look at the careers of others, going beyond the title and the narrow skills list to think about cross over skills for teams and ongoing work. It’s been a liberating way to think about careers, more holistic than box-ticking.

What’s in your T?



Image: Doors choice   |  via pixabay

Climbing the Corporate ladder

Career paths are often described in terms of a corporate ladder, climbing up, steps in your career, or even succession planning. There’s a strong idea that each move we make in our careers should be a step up. That we should be testing ourselves and chasing our boss’s job.

That’s not really a suitable metaphor anymore, as Drucker said in 1993 “There is no longer any corporate career ladder; there isn’t even a rope ladder It is more like jungle vines and you bring your own machete.”

Companies have a need for skilled people, and will provide training and set up career paths for them. But market pressures can undo the best plans of companies – financial downturns can kill a career path with ease.  Even in the best of times you’re competing with others for the next opportunity.

Some companies have taken innovative steps with their training schemes, providing “mobility budgets” which allow the employee to make a training choice based on a very broad interpretation of progress in their career plans. One woman at the financial services company I work for used hers to train as a swimming coach, and now does that full time.

On the whole a persons career, or employability or mobility – choose your term, is up to the individual; here are 25 tips to kick-off with. And if all that fails you can always adapt to unemploymentality.

Image ladder via pixaby