Talent, skill and jumping the job gap

Talent, skill and jumping the job gap

Sometimes, we casually use the words talent and skill as if they’re interchangeable, but it’s worth remembering they are often very, very different things. Although sometimes it’s easy to confuse the two.

It’s easy to consider people who are highly skilled, as being highly talented, which massively devalues the amount of work it can take to develop a specific set of skills.

For the purpose of this blog post though, I’m going to put it in the context of designers, but it can just as easily apply to just about everyone else — from artists, to planners and strategists, writers, and Liam Neeson in Taken.

Talent is something you can have naturally. Maybe born with it, maybe nurtured, but if you have aptitude for something, a natural ability or tendency, then you’re fortunate indeed.

The good news is, many people substitute talent, and in fact can cover up a distinct lack of natural talent by becoming highly skilled. The trick being, while natural talent comes, well, naturally, being highly skilled more often than not takes a truck load of sustained effort.

Perspiration vs Inspiration

Think if it as the perspiration of skill, rather than the inspiration of talent.

It’s easy to see why talent is revered over skill — who wants to work hard at being skilled when you could just be naturally talented, right? Ask any great sportsman why they’re so great, and in some way or another, they’ll all, without fail, talk about practise and dedication and all those things they added to any natural talent they may have had to become truly great. The same applies to you.

Being great. And greatly employable

My son has just graduated from design college, and to say he has talent, is undeniable. At the risk of being unnecessarily brutal, it’s fair to say his skills are a bit shit. If I look through his portfolio, his work is certainly nice enough — thankfully he knows exactly what he’s doing and has a great eye. I’ve had him in the office one afternoon a week for a while now to see what he’s made of, and that’s where I really discovered the skill deficit. The good news for him is that by working with my head designer, he’s up skilling fast. He’s learning to work smarter and faster, to make better decisions — and a bunch of really useful tricks and keyboard shortcuts. All the things that, along with talent, make someone employable.

It occurs to me how immensely unemployable most grads are because of this ‘job gap’ – the gap between having talent and being skilled enough to score, and just as importantly, keep a job. Are nearly all grads and juniors talented? Usually, yes. Are they skilled? Almost always, no. And employable? Equally, sadly, no they’re not.

Talent + Skill = Job

Talent alone isn’t necessarily your differentiator. Even if you do manage to stand out from the crowd with more talent than usual, there aren’t too many companies around these days who can afford to carry someone who is as slow as an elephant swimming through treacle. I know mine sure as hell can’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I only have the career I have today because someone took a chance on me while I was that proverbial elephant, and was more patient than should ever be expected while I learned my craft. But those people and places are few and far between, these days.

My advice to you then is to up skill as much as you can, as fast as you can. Take whatever level of talent you already have, be it a little or a lot, and focus on being highly skilled, which translates to being highly useful in any work place. The bonus is, it’s also a great way to fine tune your talents in the process.

Learn the keyboard shortcuts. Learn the tips and tricks that allow to you to get stuff done well and fast. And you’ll be infinitely more employable than someone with more talent, but less skills than you. And ready to jump the job gap when one finally comes along.


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