Being “the best” without being the best

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By SCS Editor

Keep your career on target

You don’t have to be the very best in your field to be the best candidate for a job or be indispensable to your employer.

Although being in the top 1% of a desired skill will get you there, there is another way: be a Triple Threat. Being in the top 25% on three relevant skills is easier and will make you a rock star.

Many of our most prolific figures weren’t the best at what they did. But they had the right combination of skills working in synergy. Scott Adams, the creative mind behind Dilbert, reflects in this way upon his career as the creator of one of the most ubiquitous comic strips in newspapers across the globe. “Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable,” he muses. “You make yourself rare by combining two or more ‘pretty goods’ until no one else has your mix. At least one of the skills in your mixture should involve communication, either written or verbal.” Adams attributes his success to his Triple Threat of being good (but not great) at drawing, being funny and having a background in business.

I routinely meet with senior leaders at some of Toronto’s best employers, and they share with me their insights into hiring challenges and success. Time and again they extol the virtues of hiring and promoting people who have multiple complementary skills. An employee who has secondary and tertiary skills are more desirable than someone who excels to an extreme degree at just one thing (even if that one thing is incredibly valuable in itself). The added benefit is that it’s both easier and faster than trying to master one skill. The latter can take up to 10,000 hours of focused practice and years of degree study. The former can be achieved in far less time by adding an accelerated continuing education program to your existing experience and/or education.

Here are a couple of real-world examples of how this might play out.

Mika has a few years of experience under his belt in office administration. He wants to take his career to the next level by getting into Human Resources. He takes our Certificate in Human Resources Management. Six months later, he adds the Certificate in Big Data Analytics. Mika also gained great presentation skills through regular practice and feedback during his time in our programs. He becomes known for his ability to unearth HR trends from the organizational data, analyze and recommend policy solutions, and influence the senior leaders to make decisions that save his employer money. He’s become a rock star! This allows him to step into a senior role as a Human Resources Business Partner in less than two years.

Shannon is a practicing lawyer, aiming to be a partner. She knows she needs to add to her business skills, so she takes our Certificate in Business Administration, which gives her the right competencies she needs to get to the next level. When she adds her law degree and experience with her new business credential, plus some on-the-job sales training, she ends up with a fast track to partner status, in less than one year. That’s an impressive return on investment.

A secret formula to the C-Suite

Tim Ferriss, world-famous writer, student of top performers and host of one of my favourite podcasts (The Tim Ferriss Show), quotes Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape and the Mosaic browser, and considered one of the founding fathers of the modern Internet) who weighs in on the Triple Threat as the secret formula to becoming a CEO. “All CEOs are like this,” he says, “and an unusual combination of university credentials is often how they get it.”

At York University’s School of Continuing Studies we’ve made it easy to build your powerful Triple Threat skill set. Our programs are the fastest to complete – they take a few months of part-time study, not years. They are full programs designed with top industry employers to fill identified skill gaps, incorporating experiential learning so you develop, refine and polish your public speaking, business writing and communication skills to complete your triad. We’re proud to be the only continuing education school at a Canadian university doing it this way.

You don’t have to be the best to be your best. Continuing your studies to become very good at a few more things is better.  York can help you be better, faster.

Contact us to find out more

– Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly, Assistant Vice-President, Continuing Studies