When your startup is lean, you need the right kind of talent to grow. In the early days, hiring people who have more skills in a variety of areas may be better than specialists with exceptional amounts of skill in one area. Below is an excerpt from a post we published on Founder Institute that discusses why people with “T-Shaped” skill sets are better suited at the early stages of your startup.
As more college graduates enter the job market, they’re creating an ever-widening skills gap that businesses are finding difficult to overcome. It’s because of this gap that there’s a need for employees with skill sets that incorporate a broad knowledge base, in addition to having a deep understanding in a specified area, rather than being experienced in only one discipline. These individuals are known to have a T-Shaped skill set, and there are many reasons to consider adding them to your staff.
Defining T-Shaped and I-Shaped
Over the past few years, the concept of the T-Shaped skill set has risen to the forefront of the professional community. This, in part, has been brought on by the ever-increasing need for businesses to be multidimensional. However, before we define the characteristics that make a T-Shaped professional so valuable in the workplace, it is important to discuss the traits of an I-Shaped professional, so that there are sufficient means for comparison.
The primary identifier of an I-Shaped professional is that of someone with an in-depth level of knowledge in one specific discipline. In fact, today, most young adults that are entering the workforce straight from college can be regarded as I-Shaped.
The reason these individuals are defined as such stems largely from the curriculum structure in places of higher education. Universities tend to base their degree programs around specific disciplines and this reduces the exposure that students have to alternative subjects. While this can help a student to become thoroughly educated in one area, it also keeps them from broadening their exposure to many of the concepts that can be vital for success.
Unlike that of an I-Shaped, a T-Shaped professional is someone that is regarded as having an expansive skill set in addition to a level of expertise in a specific subject. This broad spectrum of general knowledge is signified by the horizontal bar, of which, completes the T-Shaped model.
The expansive arsenal of skills from which T-Shaped professionals are able to draw from gives them added versatility in the workplace. Furthermore, these individuals are continually searching for additional ways to broaden the scope of the horizontal bar on top of the “T”. And while many T-Shaped individuals do, in fact, possess a college degree, it is their experience in additional facets that make them so valuable as employees.
It is worth noting that both types of individuals are critical to the success of a company, however, a T-Shaped professional can bring more to the table in terms of overall experience. It is for this reason that many businesses are now focusing on adding individuals with T-Shaped skill sets to their staff.