What is a T-Shaped Person, Skillset, Mindset?

A T-Shaped Person is someone with a broad skill set who specializes in one or more fields. Also, known as a versatilist, or generalizing specialist, for their wide knowledge of technical skills ranging from craftsperson to renaissance developer.

The vertical bar represents the depth of knowledge for a particular skill, and the horizontal bar represents the breadth of the skill types. So, if we’re talking about the tech industry and an I-shaped person or specialist might only be a coder of one specific language, whereas a T-shaped coder would know that particular one very well, but probably knows 3 or 4 others enough to get a job done.

The world demands a T-Shaped person nowadays

It’s not enough to just be able to do one person’s job anymore and stay as productive or competitive. So, companies are hiring people with a wider array of skills than someone who is the best at any one thing. The demand for people who can adapt and think on their feet has always been a priority but as the work available evolves the competition gets exponentially tougher.

If you were an employer hiring a new employee would you rather have someone who can only take orders at a register or someone who can run the kitchen, clean, restock and prep, but has limited time in customer service? You’re probably going to pick the second person then have them trained a little more on their service skills. I assess where I need to progress my skill or skills and work on that. That’s pretty much all I do.

Why? because they only need a little help to get to the level you need them at, as opposed to someone who can only one specific job and would take a lot more training to fill more than one position. So, if you want to be competitive in the job market you need more than just a degree and some experience. You need to have more skills than the next person ready to take that position.

Another reason to be a T-Shaped person is to work toward not having to work a day job or to be able to cash in on the skills you have to benefit you instead of a corporation.

Technically it’s more like multiple I’s of Differing Heights

So, I mentioned the vertical bar of the T. Let’s just call it “I” as in individual. Each “I” is a separate skill. So a highly trained specialist who only does one task over and over has an I-shaped skill set which is basically one skill if we completely generalize. A T-Shaped mindset would be someone who learns a concept and continues to expand on that topic. For example, if a person was into music production as I am, they would first learn music theory, then take what they’ve learned from that and apply it to learning several instruments.

For a digital producer, the equivalent would be learning to create music in every DAW that might be available in any studio. That way you aren’t trying to figure it out instead of actually being productive. Imagine a row of Ts connected together like a comb or brush. Sorry for the following analogy, but this is the easiest way I can explain it.

How would visualize the concept of a T-Shaped person? Each tooth of the comb would represent how much you know about a topic or skill. All the broken or missing teeth would represent the lack of full knowledge on that topic. So, a fairly sparse comb with hardly any teeth would be less useful than one missing only a couple. I want to be the closest to an entire brush than a broken toothless comb. As I advance my skills I could evolve into a brush, which is basically a bunch of rows of combs. A comb can do a decent job, but a brush gets so much more coverage a lot quicker.

Are you I-Shaped, T-Shaped, X-Shaped, or Tree-Shaped?

What do all those letters mean? How do they represent people? Which one are you? Let’s start with an I-shaped person. We already know they’re a specialist. Do you consider yourself the person they call to complete a certain task because you know everything there is to know about it, but that’s all you do? You are definitely a specialist.

Then, there is the T-shaped person who is a general specialist. I would consider myself a T-Shaped Person on the verge of a Tree-Shaped person. I have some experience with coding, game design, web development, writing books, and marketing but I have extensive knowledge of Welding, General Fabrication, Music and Video Production, Equipment, Image Manipulation, many other Art Mediums, Diet, and Exercise. However, I only have a limited amount of experience with Starting and Running an Online Business or Managing a crew.

That leads me into the Tree-shaped person (imagine a family tree but the relatives are replaced by skills.) who has many skills that branch off into more intricate specialties. Like someone who can compose music, but they can also write lyrics, manage a production, do all the arrangements, then mix and mast it. All those skills are in one general field but each requires a more specialized set of skills.

Finally, an X-shaped person is someone who also possesses the skill of leadership on top of all that. You’ve probably met a few of these people in your life as an employee. They’re usually a General Manager or General Foreman and if everyone else is incapable they step in and make sure the job gets completed on schedule. Without these types of people, a few industries would most likely struggle and dissolve.

How do I go from an I-shaped person and get more Experience?

That’s easy. Make time to take the effort to educate yourself. Yup! That’s the easy way to say it, but it’s a little more than that. Obviously, most people have a job and probably a family to take care of. Of course, that makes it tough but if you’re determined to get ahead you’ll set aside an hour or two a day to research and absorb all the information you need to make that happen.

Now that you are willing to make time, you’ll also need the education itself. That’s where the real effort happens. Firstly, most good educational programs have some sort of price. Many of them are quite expensive. So, why not just watch YouTube Tutorials? Well, you can do that, but you’re probably not going to a focused curriculum streamlined for more efficiency.

YouTube is great for supplementing or getting a wide range of opinions on a topic, but sites like Udemy, Thinkific, or Teachable offer courses on almost everything by professionals in their field for fairly cheap. I’ll just wait for them to run a sale for only $9.99. I’ll pay for three of them, about thirty dollars, and I save over two-hundred and seventy dollars. I end up creating a product or learning a new skill for the price of a graphical T-Shirt.

There are thousands of programs available. Some of them have a monthly fee for you to try any module on the service. Others have a separate price for each individual course. Either are great, especially if you catch a sale or bonus offer.

With almost 30 years under my belt, I’m still learning every day.

I’ve been able to cut ties with a regular nine to five because I was willing to put in the time to learn enough to make a few streams of income. I was able to adapt and do several jobs at once without being under the thumb of a corporation or some bossy manager for the entire last year. Mostly because of the time I spent learning (on the cheap) and practicing honing those skills.

If a day passes and I didn’t learn something, I feel like “it was totally wasted.” Obviously, I don’t beat myself up over that, but probably try to learn about two things the next day to make up for it. I do take breaks from working but I still watch documentaries over regular movies and TV, or I’ll read articles about self-improvement, DIY projects, new recipes, or whatever I’m interested in at the moment which probably has something to do with science, technology, art, health, wealth, and entertainment.

Anyway, I’m here on a journey to learn everything I can to produce the things that make my life fulfilled. If you’d like to come along and share in that experience, I welcome you with open arms. We all have the potential to be the person we wish we were. I look forward to helping you grow as I do.

If you would like to know more about T-Shaped Mindset, feel free to post a comment or ask a question below. If you’d like to contact me directly you can email me at trx@tshapedmindset.com

4 thoughts on “What is a T-Shaped Person, Skillset, Mindset?”

  1. Having a name associated with multiple skill levels is a new concept for me.  I had not thought of my skills in terms of a shape but I now have that knowledge.  To reflect on myself, I would say I am T-shaped in having the skills needed to manage an exhibit program for a client.  I am more I-shaped in other niche areas.  Need to focus and I thank you for helping me move in that direction.

    • Not a problem. I’m a visual person, so it definitely helps to explain things for myself. I always feel it’s much easier to grasp a concept with a diagram or chart or analogy than just plain old words and logic. It always seems to click a little bit faster that way. I too am T-shaped and in a few areas, I’m working every day to get to that tree shape. I wish you good luck on your journey.

  2. A T-shaped person. This is the first time I hear of such. Well, after reading this wonderful article, I have come to the conclusion that I am a T-shaped person. I meet the criterias that are mentioned in this article, that is why I believe that I fall into this category 

    • It’s more of a tech industry term normally used for coders of different languages. Like someone that has some knowledge of a few of them and a lot about one or a couple, but not as much as someone who only does one at an elite level. I just kind of use it in general. It fits regardless of its origins. I hope the article opens your mind to how you perceive yourself and how you value each of your notable skills.


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