Welcome back to our series on careers and why they can be both fun and successful! In our previous edition, we touched on the subject of building a specialization through a preferred line of work. Today’s edition of this series expands that concept, and shows how people who pursue what they love can develop into flexible professionals with a wide variety of skills.
WE CAN GET USED TO BUILDING EXPERTISE AS PREPARATION FOR BRANCHING OUT.
The entire process of becoming a full-fledged subject matter expert – that is, an expert on a specific area that we are especially good at – can be intensive and lengthy. Mastery is a difficult quality to build, and it requires lots of practice, experience, insight and creativity so that the specialization can be applied to many different standard and non-standard situations.
On the flipside, though, many of us feel rather bored when we master a certain skill. We feel like we’ve hit the end of the road. There is this realization that we’ve learned all there is to learn, and so we naturally seek something else to do.
Reflecting on this situation reveals a few points. First, there is no such thing as a dead-end discipline or field. Almost every science or art evolves at one point, as newer tools or ways of thinking are introduced. Therefore, the opportunity to continue growing a specialization will always present itself. It’s only a matter of time, as they say.
Second, the drive to seek something else to learn when we momentarily get stalled in our chosen field can be either harmful or helpful. The difference is in how we approach this drive to diversify.
If we approach our new interest expecting it to be easy because of our existing expertise in our original field, we might encounter some difficulty. Its fundamentals will be different, as well as the skills and character traits involved. For example, a statistician cannot approach a developing interest in literary writing in the same way.
However, if we focus on the factors and the process that produce expertise, we can adapt them to our new chosen field. The statistician in the given example can begin to develop literary skills by setting a self-study and training plan with concrete learning objectives over a specific time period, depending on her or his pacing. Almost all disciplines follow some form of guided learning system, which distributes the physical and mental pressure of learning across different steps or phases.
Best of all, this process-oriented learning system can be adapted to our personal learning styles, so each of us can perform different techniques even within the same step in the same learning program. Again, our statistician in the example can start her or his literary learning process by reading simple works by well-known authors, while a colleague who also wants to learn literary writing can start by listening to audiobooks. Both are different approaches to the same phase of learning: becoming familiar with narrative styles.
Given time, this method of building expertise can help us diversify our talents. And our foundation for this is the expertise we already have.