“For us younger generations, the career path now follows an intertwined structure.”
Once upon a time, there was a career ladder. People followed the same path: education → work → retirement. However, these dynamics have totally changed, especially for the generations Y and Z. For us younger generations, the career path now follows an intertwined structure. To give an example, we now explore many different professions while continuing our studies and after we start working in an organization, the story does not end there. We change our job positions and even our industries much more rapidly than compared to our elders. Additionally, we may explore self-employment and have a portfolio mix that includes volunteer work before we retire. So, where did this transition to a more complex career path begin and how can we keep up?
There is now a trend that can be referred to as a skills revolution in humans. This describes the shift to a demand for knowledge, which is created in companies as technology enhances and globalization becomes more and more important in our lives. In turn, companies adapt job definitions and seek out employees with the required skills to meet this demand. However, I believe another dilemma may arise here; which asks, is being a jack of all trades better than becoming a master of one?
I think it is almost undebatable that some fields of work require people to be a master of one trade, such as being an academician or a researcher after completing a PhD. Specializing in a certain topic has undeniable benefits of course, but I am one of the endorsers of being a jack, or a jill, of all trades. In my opinion, we already have a vast knowledge about the field that we chose to study and this can be considered as a mastery of one. The idea that I champion is that it is better to build up different skills on top of what you have specialized knowledge on. The reasons why I think in this way are simple actually; first of all, our capacity to learn is something that we must act on and build. Secondly, different kinds of skills and knowledge can actually complement each other rather than subtract from each other.
Building your skillset
“You never know what knowledge or skill will come in handy in your professional or even in your personal life.”
The more you leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself, the higher achievement you will obtain along the way. Learning new things is a challenge for our brains in a sense. So, why not diversify ourselves like we diversify our investment portfolios? As a personal example, I can safely say that I am very happy to be able to understand and appreciate literature as an engineer (credits to IB 😊). Although it seems that these two fields are totally unrelated, it is actually better to have a near-mastery knowledge on one and at least an introductory knowledge on the other as I said before. You never know what knowledge or skill will come in handy in your professional or even in your personal life, and as you develop yourself in that sense, you actually learn how to learn, which will enable you to be adaptable.
In my second year as an undergraduate, I was thinking of doing a minor in psychology because I have always had an interest in this area. But, during those times, I thought it would be too time-consuming because engineering and psychology seemed totally different fields. Now, I very much regret not doing it because I realized these two fields actually complement each other. I strongly believe that as an engineer working in an organization, you come into contact with many others where the need to understand human relations is extremely important. Thus, having a prior knowledge on psychology would prove to be beneficial in most of the cases you will face in your life.
I know this is a hot topic to debate, and there many opinions from many different voices, but based on my personal experiences and observations, it is the best to constantly try learning new things that you enjoy and have an interest in developing yourself!
Gözde Duru Aksoy completed her IB Diploma at TED Ankara College Private High School in Ankara, Turkey (2014). She continued her studies with a degree of BSc in Industrial Engineering at Bilkent University, Ankara (2018). She is currently pursuing MSc in Management, Technology and Economics at ETH Zurich. You will probably find her binge-drinking coffee in a café or hitting the weights before treadmill at the gym. You can reach her and send a meme as an ice-breaker on LinkedIn.
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