3 Ways to Make Yourself Much More Employable

Last Updated Aug 18, 2011 11:22 AM EDT

The next time a young person asks me for career advice, I will be tempted to refer them to Don Kelly of the Detroit Tigers.

The reigning grandmaster of utility players, Kelly is an inspiring example of the benefits of being multi-skilled. Truth be told, Kelly would never have made the major with his bat alone--his career average hovers around .235, but with his natural athleticism, commitment to practice and knowledge of the game, he became the kind of player that managers find invaluable.

Kelly is the only one in the major leagues today to have played all nine defensive positions, including catcher and pitcher. Added to his understanding of the game is a practiced skill set that includes working out with both outfielders and infielders.

What does this have to do with finding success in business? Everything. In an era of relentless optimization, an employee who is multi-skilled and can work cross functionally is an employee that managers will want to keep around--and hire.

So how can you become more multi-functional?

Look for opportunities. Learn more about what your company does and where it may be headed. For example, if your company is growing, it may need more folks in marketing. If it is about to enter a new market, it may need a deeper sales team. And for those with skills in staff functions such as accounting, legal or human resources, look for opportunities in business units other than your own.

Seek more training. If you find a position you may like, and it requires additional training, put your name forward. Make the case for yourself by talking about what you know already and with training can be more useful to your company.

Ask for job rotations. The tried and true way for employees to rise through the ranks is to work in different departments. Do so strategically. Look for areas where you will grow yours skills not simply polish your resume. Early in your career, you want to put a premium on learning rather than simply earning. The earnings will come later when you have rounded out your skill set.

There are limits, however. If you do not have schooling in accounting, it is unlikely that you can work in finance or treasury. Or if you lack engineering skills, you probably will not be in manufacturing design. Knowing these limitations prepares you to present yourself more capably for what you can do.

As desirable as making yourself more indispensable is, it will be no guarantee of job security. If you do not do anything well, you may be expendable. Or if your entire department is shuttered, you may still lose your job. But there is a bright side. If you have more than one skill - and the experience to go with it - then you may be more readily employable than some of your peers.

The other great advantage to learning new skills is what it does to your self-confidence. You will feel better about yourself because you have acquired something new and have achieved a degree of proficiency. You have demonstrated the ability to develop yourself and that is something that managers relish because it marks you as a self-motivator. And no organization can have too many of those.


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