It is Ok not to be different

Some of us believe in having unique skills. Being different from others is good. We all are taught that : be different be bold and stand out from the crowd. And we really do that all our lives. In the pursuit of uniqueness, we end-up developing a bias for what we know. We don’t really embrace skills which most people have and tag such skills as generic skills. We assume the unique abilities we possess will make us win in the long run. And we as individuals are not alone at fault for this. All the popular literature, mainstream movies and shows perpetrate this belief.

Case in point : In  my MBA class everyone wanted to learn all the fancy and arcane software for analytics. My colleagues were amazed with the possibilities which analytics offered in the near future. But no one saw the merit in learning simple and more prevalent software like Microsoft Excel; the workhorse of analytics and number crunching for over two decades!

The job market is all about generic and simple skills. An MBA who is a Ninja in Excel spreadsheets has three times more chances of getting hired than an MBA who is average at analytics or some rare skill for that matter. A graduate accountant is still more in demand than a rocket scientist.The economy wants readily usable skills. Excel is used everywhere. So the economy wants more of that.

Mass job market would always absorb generic skills: read , write, talk, do Excel spread sheets, send E-mails. And the behaviors of the people who have such skills will be revolving around adaptability and perseverance. People who want to cultivate unique skills and want to stand out from the rest fail here. Not that they are incompetent but they simply don’t have anything to offer to the economy. They have to wait till their time comes or compete in very small niches.

You might have often heard some people saying ” I want to love what I do and do what I love” well that is a good thought but the world has always shown rapid development through economies of scale and standardization: a skill which is uniform and understood across all geographies and economic domains : Java, Excel, Typewriting, Accounting etc.Having said that, there might be a space for a person who wants to write travel blogs and travel across the world. Or who wants to be an Egyptologist for that matter. But that space is too tight.

Sometimes you just need to do the stuff which everyone else can do. Just be in the crowd. So many people can’t be foolish to follow a trend. Sometimes it is just Ok to be more similar than more different. It is just risk mitigation strategy.

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