Book Review of Mash-up: How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Make Money and Be Happier by Ian Sanders and David Sloly

This book contains stories of individuals who combined multiple skills to create a patchwork quilt-type career rather than limiting themselves to a single job title. The world of work used to be a single track up a ladder where we became experts at just one thing. Now our economy and our jobs are very uncertain, with new types of jobs being created at a rapid pace. To stay employed, we need to be open to change, willing to learn new skills, and watchful for opportunities that use combinations of our skills. This is the “mash-up” way of thinking.

Tim Brown, CEO of a global design and innovation firm, introduced the idea of “T shaped” people in 2005, which demonstrates mash-up thinking. T shaped people have a principal skill – the vertical leg of the T. Then they branch out to other skills as well, which is the horizontal leg of the T. T shaped people can use insights from different perspectives and look for broader solutions in solving problems since they venture outside their primary discipline.

Mash-up thinking involves development of multiple skills, so it’s important to go beyond a job title in describing yourself. The authors propose a “personal unifier” to tie your skills together with clarity. To find this, you look for the common denominator in your skills. For example, a career counselor may be a blogger, a speaker at a conference, and a webinar presenter. The common unifier may be to “communicate career management strategies.”

To expand on your unifier, it’s important to be able to tell the story of what you do for a living and make it interesting. There are three elements to a good story: 1) the impact – you use this to grab the attention of your listener, 2) communication – you must clearly state what you want your listener to know, and 3) persuasion – you must influence your listener to take advantage of the service or resource you’re offering. (Sanders & Sloly, p. 116) To help you craft your story, ask people close to you 3 questions: 1) If you were to introduce me to someone and make a good impression, what would you say? 2) Name one thing about me that stands out. 3) Why would you buy my service or product? (Sanders & Sloly, p. 118)

Reading this book will nudge you to ponder how acquiring new skills might expand your work and interests to new areas. The authors call this “adding strings to your bow.” To choose new strings, ponder your recent work and ask: 1) What have you wanted to do but have not tried? 2) Where is there untapped potential? 3) What else could you offer? (Sanders & Sloly, p. 158)

I hope this book helps you to think outside your “job title box” and explore new areas for your career development.

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services