As the leading IT staffing recruiting agency in Dallas, we understand the importance of skill diversity. Learn why success in IT requires broadening your skills beyond a single specialization.

Don’t Specialize at the Beginning of Your Career

Ok, it has probably been said before, but I’m going to say it again because a lot of information technology (IT) job seekers just don’t seem to get it.  Don’t specialize when you’re just getting started. You don’t have the experience, or for that matter, the ability to specialize yet.

Imagine that you have become a Ruby on Rails guru.  Everybody in the IT department knows that you are the go-to expert for anything Ruby-related.  One day your boss walks up to you and says “I’ve just come back from meeting with an IT staffing recruiting agency.  I’ve hired four new web-app programmers for your department, and I need you to get them up-to-speed.  Whip up a PowerPoint presentation for them, would you?”

“Ummm…” you say.

“Prepare a seminar for Monday.  You’ll have Conference Room B for an hour before lunch, and an hour after lunch.  That should be enough time, right? Get back to me by Friday and report your progress.  Thanks”.

The problem is that you’re a UNIX guy…  You have no idea how PowerPoint works. Heck, you barely managed to create a satisfactory résumé in Microsoft WORD to get this job…  

There’s an old adage that exemplifies specialization among us IT staffing recruiting agency types.  The saying points out that contemporary experts are getting to know more-and-more about less-and-less, and that one day soon we’re going to be faced with people that know absolutely everything about next-to-nothing.

You don’t want to be that person.  All it will do is end up crippling your IT career.  

Our Advice, as a Leading IT Staffing Recruiting Agency

All generalizations are useless…except for this one

Be a Generalist.  Of course, you have interests in specific IT skills and jobs, and you can focus on those areas, but not to the exclusion of other knowledge.

The most successful people in the information technology business are generalists because not only can they work in multiple areas, but their diversified knowledge allows them to see relationships that elude specialists.  We’re talking about versatility, one of the most useful items you will ever have in your tool kit of skills.

Being Versatile

An artist friend of mine once built a to-scale-sized velociraptor in his apartment.  He used to make all sorts of (non-kit) models, too. He went to a prestigious college to learn quite impressive animation skills.  He worked illustrating cartoon animations such as Babar the Elephant, Beetlejuice, Scooby Doo, Droids, Tales from the Crypt Keeper, etc.  

Soon after working with an IT staffing recruiting agency, he was hired to work in the British Virgin Islands for a year hand-illustrating computer games.  Hired by Disney™, he animated features like Lilo & Stitch, Tarzan, and Mulan.

When Disney closed their animation studio he undertook to learn computer graphic animation.  After creating all the ships from the new Battlestar Galactica (all five series) he moved on to illustrate all your favorite games, like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, a couple of Call of Duty titles, TRON: Evolution, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and much more.

If this fantastic artist had confined himself to frame-by-frame hand-animation, many of your beloved XBOX1/PS4/PC/Steam games would have been much different.  Still illustrating your games, he now makes (real) Roman armor, and uses his backyard forge to make futuristic/retro ray-guns and space weapons.

In the IT Staffing Recruiting World

After 20+ years in the IT staffing recruiting agency business, we have learned that it is your responsibility to make yourself useful to your future employer. Even if you’re in Network Security, know what Visual Basic is; be familiar with C, C++, and C#; explore Python and Ruby; learn how to manage a database system.  

Most colleges offer optional courses to parallel your main program including things such as Project Management, Business Intelligence, Cultural Sensitivity, Technical Reporting, Graphics (such as Flash and Photoshop), Business Mathematics, and Business English.  Even programmers have the option of taking Network Security courses while they’re busily designing games.

The Takeaway

If you don’t broaden your horizons, if you don’t make the effort to diversify your skills, you are going to be overlooked for hiring, ignored for promotions, and supplanted by someone who really did make the effort.

You can find and work with the best IT staffing recruiting agency in the country.  But as a one-trick-pony, after you’ve done your one trick, you have reached your maximum potential.  There’s nowhere for you to go.

Always be prepared to take that extra step.  Find a way to learn one new thing every day, because if you’re not moving forward you’re stagnating.  This is important, so think about it every day. Grow… or rot.

Related: The Many Variations of Software Development Career Paths

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