If you’re a hybrid, what’s your expertise?

“If you combine two skills that are valuable, but even more are rare and therefore more valuable together,…automatically you have a competitive advantage that lands you in the top decile of earning power.” — Tim Ferriss

What are you an expert in?

One thing? Two things? Three things? Too many to count? If you have many areas of expertise, you’re not alone. It’s becoming common for people to possess deep knowledge in multiple domains. That’s where it becomes tricky because society still holds the (outdated) belief that you can only have one form of expertise. Otherwise they peg you as a generalist, even though you’re not.

The belief that experts are better than generalists or vice versa causes strife and conflict for hiring, promotion, and career transitions. Job seekers and employees have to show what they’re good at and best in, or else they’re not competitive and they won’t stand out. If you’re truly great at many things, which many people actually are, then this is a real predicament. I talk to professionals about this all the time. They’re struggling to define themselves and their core expertise.

More authors and researchers are making strong arguments that it’s more desirable and enviable to have a spectrum of deep abilities. For instance, in his book, Range, David Epstein discusses why juggling many interests instead of focusing on one makes you more creative, agile and prime to excel. Likewise, there are a slew of articles in Harvard Business Review (like this one) and Forbes (like this one) about the importance of generalists compared to specialists, and how they have a competitive advantage because of their breadth of talents.

However, this doesn’t answer the primary question: “If I’m a hybrid professional, what am I an expert in?”

I hear this statement A LOT from my hybrid clients and people who join my presentations. It’s a legitimate question because it sounds like hypocritical advice to say you need to find your expertise but you can also be good at everything. I promise, you can be both, and here’s how.

As a hybrid professional, you are the SUM of your different identities. When two or more of your areas of expertise converge, that’s where your hybrid expertise is formed, and that’s your TRUE expertise. (Refer to the image of the venn diagram to see how the intersections reveal your expertise).

Essentially, your hybridity is your expertise!

Case in point, look at Jeff Bezos. He studied computer science and electrical engineering, and then worked at an investment firm. When he saw projections about the future growth of the internet, he saw an opportunity. He knew nothing about building an internet company or retail before he started Amazon. Now, he’s combined these different areas of expertise, and his hybrid identity is the marriage of all that knowledge and experience. Amazon is a unique model that’s the result of his many identities coming together.

In his YouTube video, Should You Specialize or Be A Generalist, Tim Ferriss recommends being a specialized generalist. This is his way of saying that combining your skills make you specialized in that unique combination, and the rarer those gifts, the more earning power you’ll have.

Maybe you’ve heard other terms like:

  • Expert-Generalist
  • Deep Generalist
  • Specialized Generalist
  • T-shaped person (having both breadth and depth)
  • Polymath
  • (P.S. if you know others, please share them with me)

These are variations of the same idea of being a hybrid. However, I don’t find these terms clear or succinct. In fact, their paradoxical nature makes me crazy because you’re essentially saying you’re both an expert and a generalist just in a trendier or buzz-worthier way. That’s why I think calling yourself a hybrid professional is more truthful, honest, and easy to explain.

Next, the action step you have to do for yourself is to define your hybrid expertise- that means coming up with your hybrid title (mine is Chief Creative Disruptor). Once you do, you’ll have a unique value prop to offer the world that’s transformative and unparalleled. I can say this with certainty because I’ve helped countless professionals define their hybridity, and it’s been game-changing for their self-confidence and their job prospects. Check out my book and workbook for all kinds of step-by-step advice, or start by drawing a venn diagram to examine your professional identities.

(this post was originally published on my blog at More Than My Title)

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