The concept of “talent stacking” was originally coined by the creator of the Dilbert comics, Scott Adams, who touted the value of taking a set of connected (or even some unconnected, but relevant), ordinary talents and combining them to create one extraordinary person.
An example of a talent stacker would be an insurance broker with a podcast and a knack for public speaking, or a school teacher who knows how to create helpful lesson plan print-outs and uploads them to a website she created to sell to other teachers.
Adams, himself, is a perfect example of what it means to be extraordinary simply by accumulating a unique set of ordinary talents. He is not a groundbreaking artist, or a prolific writer, but he artfully combines his wit and basic drawing skills for a 1-2 punch of uniqueness.
He’s also valued at over $75 million dollars. Not bad for a cartoonist!
Most of us have regular 9-5 jobs before we reach FI, and often, even with years of experience, our resumes closely resemble that of our colleagues. While you might have racked up awards, job titles and prestige within your field, one way to fast-track your earnings is to mark yourself with a differentiator–namely, a talent stack of skills that set you apart from others in your field.
Developing an array of interrelated skills makes you stand out and valuable. Not only valuable in helping you have a competitive edge for your next job interview, as the accountant who is also great at social media marketing for whatever office they work for–but it can also be a completely different talent that sets you apart and helps you earn more instead of being passed over.
How To Identify Talents You Should Stack
You may be working as an accountant for a mid-sized company. While you are very skilled at what you do, you start to recognize that there are needs in the types of companies you work for that go unfulfilled, and talents within the existing workforce that go undeveloped.
For you, you might be able to set yourself apart by developing public speaking, website coding, online content writing, or online marketing skills to add to your talent stack.
Being able to be an accountant that can also help your small company run their Facebook page is a great skill to have–and likely a rare one. Additionally, there is huge value in being able to speak confidently at the local Chamber of Commerce meetings since you can eloquently craft and deliver a presentation that fits the needs of the local community to attract new clients.
No matter what your current career field, you can likely identify things that would make you stand out–perhaps certification or training in emerging technologies, relevant volunteer experience, or even some sales experience.
Some Examples of Talent To Stack:
- Social Media Marketing
- Website development
- Photography or graphic design
- Public speaking
- Event planning
- Search engine optimization
- Basic accounting or organizational skills
- Entrepreneurship/running small businesses
- Unique personality traits (like humor or leadership)
Developing A Talent Stack For Yourself
While it’s helpful to rack up talents that can help you get noticed if you’re applying for a new, better paying job, it can also be useful to diversify your talent set if you’re thinking of developing a side hustle to earn extra income.
Again, if you’re an accountant who is looking for more work on the side–you could learn more about online course/product creation, blogging, podcasting, or even online coaching to earn money in your spare time.
Learning how to put together an e-book that draws on your years of experience as an accountant, but solves a problem for someone with a small business, is another way to diversify your talents and your income by developing your own sellable product based on your work experience.
It simply takes learning a few new things outside of your existing skill set; like how to create a digital product, build a basic website, or create listings on Amazon. Often you can learn these skills for free to talent stack extra income.
You Don’t Even Have To Be Good
The fabulous part about developing a talent stack is that you don’t have to master a set of skills to an expert level. Simply acquiring an additional array of skills will help you:
- get noticed in a crowded marketplace
- earn more pay for what you do
- take your regular skills and market them in new ways to earn money on the side
Most of us are told that we should strive to be the very top of our field–but as we age, we start to see that getting to the top of the specialty pyramid, as a truly world-class expert, can be challenging.
While we should always strive to develop our crafts to the level of Michael Jordan, we may realize it’s a challenge to simply be that talented. And competition for being specifically “the best” is tough. Where we can truly shine is by accumulating a unique set of talents that help us market ourselves as an outlier and differentiate our skill sets.
But Does Talent Stacking Pay Off?
It did for me! I originally got into social media marketing as a hobby. However, over time I began to see needs and other skills to develope beyond using the Facebook ad platform or scheduling tweets to stand out. When I left graduate school, the sheer volume of people applying for entry level social media marketing jobs was staggering, and I didn’t have any sexy internships or apprenticeships to speak of.
So, of my own volition, I took several courses on photography, learned basic Photoshop skills, and built a blog that would help me understand a new aspect of social media that hadn’t been widely developed. This niche was influencer marketing. This area of expertise allowed me to stand out from the crowd.
I worked with brands as an influencer on my blog and saw what brands were doing with other influencers and how they were building their successful, and sometimes, less successful marketing campaigns. Eventually those skills and unique perspectives landed me a hefty pay increase at a new, highly respected company.
Since I became a “Jill of all (well, many) trades” and developed a unique set of skills, I was able to cut through the cluttered applicant pool and land a highly advantageous offer. Truly, I’m not the best social media maven out there, but I saw holes in the workforce and went after them to learn more. That insight and hard work paid off.
You’d be surprised what a few additional, non-exceptional skills can do to help you get exceptional results–much of which can be learned for free online, or through reading a few books at your local library.