We all want to be great at something. Usain Bolt didn’t end up making cocky gesturesat the finish line because he was pretty good at lots of sports, Stephen Hawkinghasn’t inspired legions of astrophysicists by working on his haikus and DavidCopperfield isn’t famous for being a great all-rounder.So, logically, inthe professionalworld, especially in tough times, it makes sense to get really, really good at what youdo. Right?Wrong. Those in the know (business leaders, recruitmentprofessionals, career coaches) are pushing a new buzzword: cross-train.What is Professional Cross-Training?

Cross-traininghas been around in the world of athletics for some time, but the phrase can generally beused to express how the combination of two activities produces an improvement -- aninteraction effect -- substantially greater than either one can produce on its own.We’re talking complementary activities here, like law and accounting, not law andceramics. Think about how diet and exercise, when combined, are substantially moreeffective for weight loss than either diet or exercise alone (or diet and Sudokucombined).The skills thatwill make you better at your jobThere are two types of cross-training: the kind that you pursue yourself, like learning anew language or getting tech-savvy, and in-company development kind, which could includethings like job rotation or management training. Essentially, this means any traininggeared toward helping you expand your scope of knowledge and skills beyond the confines ofyour own professionaldiscipline.If you’re a journalist, learning photography would be aneffective compliment. If you’re a yoga teacher, then dance or meditation might beuseful. A business consultant might consider picking up skills like public speaking,social media proficiency or HR negotiations.Why Cross-Train?

The experts agree that if time is scarce, it’s better to learn a new skill thanbuild on the ones you already have. In most fields, honing complementary skills is just asvaluable, if not more so, than delving more deeply into the area in which you’remost competent. Having many areas of expertise instead of just one will make you seem likea more well-rounded employee and more useful to have in the office if extra work needs tobe done or someone is needed to cover another employee’s tasks. For example, in manycases, the guy who is comfortable with technology, communications and client relations ismore useful than the guy who is just an IT whiz.In addition, the more skillsyou possess, the more your expertise is apparent and accessible to colleagues andmanagement. Cross-training promotes versatility, giving you the edge in a dynamic economy,where layoffs and belt-tightening mean that fewer employees need to know how to do more.Building new strengths is more important, they say, than improving on known weaknesses --unless you’re training for the Olympics.How do you start askill-development program? That's next... Continue Reading

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