The Career Insurance Policy

"To never put all your eggs in one basket has always been a good idea and a mantra of mine. Spread the risk. Have one job and do one thing and be able to do two or three other things in case one thing doesn't work out. Just don't be a master in one and a knucklehead in all others." - Gene Simmons

Two highly respected authors, Seth Godin and Tim Ferris, have somewhat opposing views on being a specialist at work. Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow, says to find a previously undiscovered, underserved niche and serve them exceptionally well - be the very best at that one thing. Tim Ferris, author of the 4 Hour Work Week, says be more of a generalist. Ferris says, "In a world of dogmatic specialists, its the generalist who ends up running the show." The generalist knows enough about several skills; perhaps not enough to be perfect, but enough to be functional and competent. He makes his point with the example of an Army "general". They are a generalist of sorts. Not necessarily a specialist in one given field, but in command of everything.

Which one is better?
Do you think it is better to be a master of one skill or a generalist capable of working several different jobs? Specialists are usually rewarded with higher paying jobs, because they are rare. They can solve problems, design products, or satisfy niche customer desires where many others can not. However, is "putting all of your talent in one basket", so to speak, safe in today's economy? We discovered in 2008 that even specialists' jobs are subject to being ruthlessly devoured by a poor economy. Is a generalist better off in that particular situation? Are there more options open to a generalist looking for a quick job replacement as they are competent in other skills?

Specialists with a backup plan.
Being great in a high demand or niche market is an excellent way to attract high pay, incentives, and career growth, but what if your concern is ensuring your ability to earn a living even during harder economic times? A professional certification or license in another field is an option. They don't always require as many years of formal education and experience as does being a specialist, and they can be excellent career insurance policies - just read Janet's story.

Janet's story.
Janet was a director in a large banking call center. She had a college degree in accounting and had worked her way up through the ranks of the company for 18 years. She was a specialist at starting new niche department's within her call center to serve the various needs of the bank's clients. However, she saw trouble on the horizon in 2008 when the banking industry was taking serious economic hits.

She didn't think the trouble would affect her, but she wanted to start working on a back up plan. She decided to go to a table games dealer school facilitated by the city's casino. Poker and table games were a passion of hers, and Janet felt that if she was forced into a situation where she needed to find work quickly the casino was where she wanted to be.

However, to be a dealer you had to have a gaming license, which is why she attended the 10 week training program. The school was held 5 days a week for 4 hours every evening. At the end of the class the students were awarded their state gaming license and were qualified to work as a dealer in any casino within the state. The license was valid for 5 years and cost $350.00, payable to the state. Janet did not go to work for the casino, but felt as if that license was a career insurance policy.

Various certifications and licenses.
Certifications and licenses vary greatly in the amount of education, cost, and experience required to achieve them. There are much different requirements for a personal trainer versus a real estate agent, for example. There is often an educational requirement, and/or a previous work experience requirement. There is always a comprehensive exam (whether that be in the classroom, the field, or both) and there will be a recertification or continuing education requirement in order to keep your skills sharp and current.

They do give you an advantage when looking for a new job; one reason is that fewer people hold them. Here is a partial list of occupations that require some kind of license or certification. What appeals to you? Which one do you think would help you find work more quickly if you had to?

Licensing can vary state to state.
Barbers Manicurists Librarians (some states) Certified Financial Planner
Massage Therapist Shampoo assistants Electrologists Private detectives
Midwife Massage therapists Fork truck driver Hearing-aid fitters
Occupational therapists Paralegal Polygraphy Examiner Taxidermist
Casino gaming license Personal Trainer Florists Cisco Certified Voice Professional
Fortune tellers Series 7 Securities Representative Interior designers Project Management Professional
Series 63 Uniform Securities Agent Security Guard Firearms Permit Master Beekeeper certification Commerical Driving License (CDL)
Act 24, 33 & 34 Clearances in PA when working with children
Series 6 Investment Company Products/Variable Life Contracts Representative

 

 
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