Ask Asia: Should Creatives be Multi-Skilled or Specialised?

To be multi-skilled or have a specialism – what makes you more attractive as a candidate?


Creatives coming into the industry today have a really tough job ahead of them. In a competitive market it’s difficult to get into the leading creative jobs and agencies around the world, and with many of them sending mixed messages with regards to their preference of multi skilled applicants or specialists – creatives are feeling utterly confused.

The Cogs team, now established in 4 countries, see this challenge daily when they meet and advise creatives on their careers, so we’ve asked for their expert opinion on the subject. Today we talk to Asia and ask whether a multiplicity of skills is better than a specialism?

Damien Bell, Director Cogs Hong Kong and Greater China

“When you are starting out in your creative career it’s advantageous to build foundational skills across the entire creative process. This will allow you to better understand the various disciplines that contribute to conceptualization and delivery of creative solutions and the end-to-end creative process. However, you can specialize at any point in your career if you choose to do so.

What’s most important is understanding what you, as a creative and a professional, desire and what type of organization has the business model, product or scope of services that will enable you to fulfill your creative prowess.

Some businesses have a specialised service offerings or product(s) that required a more niche skill set. Others have a broader repertoire which may benefit from housing those with more diverse attributes and greater adaptability.

The key is to try to better understand what you want, what’s on offer and how best to build a skills base and knowledge that will give you a platform for success. Hong Kong (much like other major economic markets) has a multitude of agency and client-side models that sits across all the core sector verticals. In essence it can cater for specialists, hybrid’s and generalists alike.

On a final note I would add that while we would all like to work in an environment where we can pick and choose what we do on a day-to-day basis I’d advise you to be realistic. Not every project is going to be as creative as you’d like it to be. Not every task equally as fun or enjoyable. Every business has commercial needs and this can often mean you have to sometimes do the dirty work to meet them.”

Fanny Yap, Consultant, Cogs Singapore

“Since creatives now have access to a mirage of open source tools and information, which otherwise would have been completely out of reach years ago, many ‘self-taught’ hybrids have emerged. Whether or not that attributes to a preference in employers to hire them, it’s still subjective to each company’s needs.

One observation is that as creatives move up the career ladder, starting out as a hybrid or ‘tribrid’ has its clear advantages, then as they get into more leadership type roles and become mentors in their own right, specializing in specific practices adds value to their position.

In Singapore especially, mentorship is a big deal. Most ‘fresh out of school’ creatives already know how code works, and some can even create code as well as design, but those that want to excel in one area may often lack a mentor to help build their core expertise.

No matter what path to success is deemed better, I believe that a true creative should pursue what they want to be good in and put all their effort into sustaining that passion.  If you do what you do, because it feeds your creative hunger – you will be great at it. The icing on the cake comes when working means doing what you enjoy and getting paid for it. It doesn’t happen for everybody sure, but if you’re clear on what you want and pursue that relentlessly, who said there can’t be a win-win situation?”

Asia is a growing market, so competition is hot but the opportunities are there. It seems being cross-disciplinary is always going to make you an attractive candidate at the outset and being able to collaborative skills is important. That being said, if you have a clear passion for one area of creative, go with your instinct and be persistent with your goals and become a specialist.

Ultimately if you set out with a strong understanding of exactly what you want to achieve, what your real passions are and where you want to be – you will achieve success, not matter what path you take to get there.

Check out our current creative jobs in Hong Kong  and Singapore now.

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