My wife, Lindsey, is a video editor. I say this in order to say that she is not a video director, a shooter, nor a color correctionist—she is an editor of videos, a story-teller.
This is not to say that in her many years as a professional video editor she has not taken on all of the aforementioned roles—often directing or shooting a friend’s music video, or color correcting a project that has a smaller budget. But if asked directly what she does, she would say she is an editor.
Why is this so significant? After all, many young freelance editors will often list as many of their skills as possible on their curriculum vitae in order to increase the range of work they can take on.
Likewise, when I was getting my first web development contracts, I would always put web design and Flash animation on my resume. I felt like it was important to cover everything, and I made the mistake of listing every skill I had instead of focusing on my strengths.
Skillset diversity seems to be encouraged, so isn’t being proficient in many areas beneficial?
Isn’t being proficient in many areas beneficial?
Yes of course, but only to the end that it can lead to a better foundation for specialization. Having working experience in shooting or color correction allows my wife to be a well-rounded editor, but specializing adds a level of professionalism and security that being a “jack-of-all-trades” lacks.
Focus on Your Strengths
Editors can expect to make a specific day rate and start a project at a specific step of the process (after shooting, after footage is prepped, and before sound and color are corrected). In the same regard, a developer that specializes in Rails development can expect the designs to be done, the front-end code to be written, and the staging server to be prepped. It’s their job to build the server-side foundation on which the house will sit.
Specializing adds a level of professionalism and security that being a “jack-of-all-trades” lacks.
The wonderful thing is, for developers, there is no lack of things to specialize in. All one needs to be an expert is tenacity and passion for learning. This might mean taking extra nights and weekends to hone your new Node.js skills or put the finishing touches on your brilliant jQuery plugin—but every hour spent is positioning you for more fulfilling (and likely better paying) work doing something you really love to do.
Subject Matter Experts
At Barrel, we’ve recently created a “Subject Matter Experts” (SME) team, encompassing various areas of development where one or two people in the company excel. The members of the team are responsible for continuing to grow in their areas of expertise, teaching others, and sharing new and exciting things within the group.
That’s why we encourage developers at Barrel to specialize in different aspects of their field. It’s a key step to increasing each person’s personal and professional value, giving them an identity, and allowing them to do their best work. I can feel my value every time I help someone with a PHP app development problem.
Cut the fat off your resume and get the jobs where you can focus on doing what you do best.
So, I encourage you, specialize! Dedicate the next year to some aspect of your work that will help you stand out. Cut the fat off your resume and get the jobs where you can focus on doing what you do best. I promise it will be worth it.
Illustrations by Andrea Horne