With about one-third of the American workforce doing contract or freelance work at some point in their careers, most of us have learned to wear many hats when it comes to work. But if you minimize how many things you know how to do when you apply for a job (thinking that it might be distracting), you're not alone. We've entered the new world, where most people do so many types of jobs that instead of padding resumes with overblown, or even false abilities, these days it's more common to do the opposite. 

But maybe we should all fess up to our plethora of skills when we go looking for that next position, because it turns out that those of us with unconventional combinations of skill sets — termed "athletes" in this article — are more valuable employees. 

That's because bosses want, "... someone who is able to adjust and learn new skills as the business issues change. A ‘perfect fit’ who can’t think or act outside of their box won’t cut it anymore. In addition, 18 months from now, the candidate will most likely be in a different role anyway – and he’ll probably still be on your team. It’s not ideal to work with someone who is a perfect fit for the role they don’t have anymore."

It's a compelling idea. Those of us with a variety of skills are actually more valuable as the landscape of business shifts rapidly. This has several advantages:

  • One's knowledge only needs to be regularly updated, not learned from scratch.
  • You'll be better at managing someone in a more specific role, because you'll understand how that job works. (For instance, you might not be a social media or SEO expert, but you might know enough to enable you to manage someone who is if you know the basics of how these functions work.)
  • Skills from one area of expertise (say, teaching) are useful in another. It's much easier to give a strong presentation on a new product if you already knows how to speak in front of a group, for example.
  • The more varied skills you have, the more confident you are about learning something new. "Athletes" are ready to jump right in because they are used to learning new ways of doing things, picking up the latest operating systems.
  • "Athletes" are already used to working with a variety of people, since they have had experience in a wide variety of jobs. 
So whether you're the person writing the want ad, or the one looking for a job, don't be afraid of being the person (or hiring the person) with plenty of seemingly unrelated experience. It all counts.

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Why your next hire should be an 'athlete'
Flexible, multitasking employees who offer a veritable grab bag of skills are likely to perform better than typical candidates.