Not long ago, I had the experience of working with a new intern. While we were having a coffee, I asked her about herself and how she saw herself helping us during her stay.

“Oh, I can do anything,” she gushed. “I’m just so happy to be here that I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

Obviously, she had a great attitude! But I was actually really disappointed with her answer – especially after I tried to prod her a little more and couldn’t get anything more specific out of her.

Why? Because telling everyone you’re a jack-of-all trades is a big personal branding mistake!

I actually learned this from my mother, a business-to-business sales expert. She taught me that the biggest mistake sellers make is to try to prove to a prospect that their company can solve ANY (semi-related) problem that prospect’s company might have.

Jack of all trades, master of none

The reason sellers do this is because they don’t want to lose any business. So they expand their target market from (e.g.) mid-sized utility companies in the Midwest to any business anywhere in the world that send out monthly bills.

If you’re looking for a job, you’re probably a lot like those sellers. It’s so important for you to get the job that you don’t want to disqualify yourself from any possibilities. It’s even worse if you’re running low on money and desperately need to win over the interviewer.

But doing that will actually hurt your cause.

The truth is, business prospects don’t want to work with a company that does everything. They want to work with companies who work in their exact area and are experts on the unique challenges that prospect’s company faces on a daily business.

The same goes for job seekers. Companies want employees with a great attitude, but it’s just as important to them that they get the people who are the absolute best for the position. They want to hear from people who are good at exactly the sort of job that they need to fill.

They want the best

When you try to ensure that you don’t miss any opportunities, you aren’t viewed as the confident, competent person who can provide exactly what the company needs. Instead, acting like a jack-of-all-trades ends up causing others to think (that if you’ve spent the time learning how to do everything) you haven’t had the time to become really good at what they actually need you to do.

To get other people to see you as the confident, competent person who can meet their needs, you actually need to be willing to close off some options – even if someone approaches you. This gives you a chance to tune your personal marketing materials especially for the job you really want, and it helps you become really good in that specific area.

Plus, when someone asks you what you can do, you actually are able to give them a concrete answer that will help them see how they can benefit from working with you – versus an interchangeable robot who does whatever it’s told.


Katie Konrath writes about creativity, innovation and “ideas so fresh… they should be slapped!” at