I recently conducted a lecture on the desire for Polymaths in the 21st century. But what exactly is a Polymath, and how do you become one?
What do you think Leonardo da Vinci, Shakira and Elon Musk have in common? Well, da Vinci was an inventor, artist, sculptor, engineer, writer – amongst other things. Shakira is a world famous singer, songwriter, dancer, businesswoman and philanthropist. Musk’s talents extend over computer programming, software development, physics, chemistry, engineering and automotive design – just to name a few.
Essentially, the above examples are people who have multiple interests and skills sets in a range of different areas. They are not typical specialists who possess a plethora of knowledge on one topic. They have taken interest in diverse areas, and integrated such to create a truly unique skill set.
The Industrial Revolution
With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, manual labour was replaced by machinery, giving rise to what is commonly known as more ‘white collar’ work. However as times continue to evolve, web applications and programmes are replacing even these skills. Talent that remains at a competitive edge are professionals who have a broad set of interests and skills, and are able and competent to come up with fresh, innovative and different ideas.
Is the Specialist Era over?
Of course there are still areas where we want to see specialists in their relevant field. No-one wants to go under the knife by someone who has ‘dabbled’ in a few operations. You’d want someone who is proficient, skilled and an absolute expert on the human body. The good news is that there are still revered vocations that demand the skill and precision of relevant connoisseurs. However, it would be foolish to think that we shouldn’t embrace more of a polymath approach to work as we move into the future.
Jack of all trades, Master of none?
People who love learning across fields can use that tendency to be more financially successful and impactful in their career. It’s not a case of dipping into a bit of reading here and there; it’s by cultivating a skill set through dedicated time and energy into interesting new skill sets. If we apply Pareto’s 80/20 principle, and it takes about 20 years to acquire Mastery status in an area of interest, then it would take about 4 years (20% of the time) to gain credible Journeyman status; or in other words, someone who is competent to fulfil a particular role.
Now is the best time
There has certainly never been a better opportunity than now to upskill in different areas. With so many resources and mediums available, one can listen to an audio book or podcast, research the internet or take advantage of online learning platforms (some free!) like www.udemy.com , www.alison.com or more formal institutions which offer contact or online platforms.
Personally, I am a Registered Psychometrist, but I also have experience in marketing, copy writing and managing a radio station. This blended skill set has allowed me to offer something truly unique to a typical psychometric consultancy – such as coaching, assisting professionals with their personal branding and devising workshops to empower professionals – over and above conducting formal psychometric assessments for selection and development purposes.
Ask yourself – what are your formal qualifications? What are your skills? Talents? What are you passionate about? Brainstorm these areas and you may be able to come up with a truly unique, niche skill set that may even be yet to be discovered!
Need help deciding on your Polymath status? Get in touch with Holistan today; we are able to customise a battery of assessments to devise a strategic plan on how to take your career to the next level.
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