[Our guest blogger today is Ian Sanders, marketer, writer, and idea communicator.—CM]
Glancing down my LinkedIn connections this morning, I was reminded how meaningless job titles have become in a world where so many of us have gone multidimensional: how can you communicate multiplicity in a singular title? In an increasingly competitive and uncertain job market, communicating our professional talents is more important than ever. Whilst some of my LinkedIn contacts have selected stand-out titles like Change Agent and Risk Taker, the reality is that, for many, a job title doesn't cut it anymore.
This idea is at the heart of my own new book co-written with David Sloly, Mash-up!: How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Make Money and Be Happier. Whether you work for yourself or for an organisation, not much may be clear in this new world of work and business, but one thing is certain: those who have more than one trade or talent to offer the workplace, those who can reinvent themselves, who can pivot to match client and employer demand may prove to be more hirable. The mash-up worker is agile, comfortable adding new strings to her bow, bringing breadth of disciplines to projects instead of pursuing a one-track single-specialism career. A mash-up work life blends multiple talents and disciplines, creating a plural offering that is more fulfilling and also more enterprising.
Many people are doing jobs that didn't exist a generation ago, especially in digital communications, marketing, tech, and creativity, where their roles are very much a feature of the present. The future needs what David Kelly at IDEO billed "T-shaped" people; with specific skills, but breadth in other empathetic disciplines. The T-shaped executive who can cross borders to mash together ideas from one discipline to another can help foster innovation. Not entrenched in a single way of doing things, they have the vision for analogous learning and ability to apply an experience from one industry to another. The mash-up worker doesn't stand still, but keeps pace with shifting trends and client needs, reinventing herself where required.
Being a master of reinvention serves you well in a period of rapid change so if your current world gets saturated, stagnates or stalls you can stay ahead of the game. So how do you communicate your plural, ever-changing talents? Whether it's a business prospect you meet online, someone you bump into at a conference, or a woman you sit next to at a dinner party, you need them to understand what you do. If you only share one of the many strings to your bow, you risk missing out on opportunities. Of course, in the old world a job title would have communicated this, but today you are more than your job title, and that means it's more difficult to communicate. So here's the secret to making all you do "gettable": you need a unifier.
Your unifier is the single theme or idea that unites all you do. A unifier means you can easily share your talents with the outside world; it's the common denominator that binds together all you do. A unifier will bring clarity to your professional life, helping make you gettable and memorable. My own unifier is "communicating business ideas." So whether I'm writing books, advising clients on marketing, or writing an entrepreneurial feature for the Financial Times, that unites everything I touch. But importantly, it's also my touchstone for ensuring I don't go "off-piste"; I may take on a side project or extend my portfolio, but it has to fit—it has to be about communicating ideas.
So if you're looking to raise your game in the job market, try developing some broad skills to complement your specialism, be prepared to reinvent your offering, and most importantly find that personal unifier to answer the "What do you do?" question.
[Ian Sanders is an Idea Capturer, Financial Times columnist, marketer, and writer. (And, most importantly, a communicator of ideas.) On Twitter: @iansanders. His new book is Mash-up!: How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Make Money and Be Happier by Ian Sanders and
David Sloly, out now for Kindle, out October 28 in paperback.]