Jack of all trades..master of none.
The Generalist vs. Specialist Dilemma.
If your career has been anything like mine, you probably started out at an entry level position in one department and over the years progressively moved upwards through different roles based on your interests, skillset and performance. This was great for me, the change kept me fresh and engaged and each of those roles provided invaluable insights into the workings of the company. In addition, the expertise I gained allowed me see the bigger picture on impacts of specific changes to the entirety of the value chain within the company.
Now if your career has also been like mine, you probably, much like myself have never really thought about how this route up the ladder defines your career path. The terms specialist vs. generalist came into play in.a recent discussion I had with a recruitment consultant. In this conversation, we were attempting to map out my next career move after the year-long break I had taken to pursue my MBA.
The challenge came about for me when I fired up that computer to go through a self-assesment that she(my recruiter), recommended that I undertake before the resume review and ultimately the job search. Now this is where you really get honest with yourself about things like your vision career-wise, your skills and competencies-and I mean real ones, not the ones you imagine you have being the superwoman or man that you are, right?! And then there's that section on career interests. Now this was tricky, there were just too many roles I felt I could fit in and in too many diverse fields. I was what my recruitment consultant termed as a generalist.
A what? I asked. So I began reading extensively about what I found out was the ultimate career dilemma. Generalist-jack of all trades, master of none vs. Specialist-master of one. For the generalist, their wide variety of transferable skills and broad knowledge on a variety of subjects offers a greater scope to market oneself and on the corporate front are valued in organisations for being able to see the big picture and work with different departments to problem-solve. Also high level management positions tend to require a breadth of skills as running a business requires wearing several different hats.
For the specialist, they take a lot longer to master their area of specialisation. They have in depth knowledge on a particular subject and are therefore very valuable to any company which also means they generally earn more money. Specialists are also reverred as thought leaders in their areas of expertise and have the opportunity to be sought-after problem solvers.
So which should you be as you start to think about shaping your career? Would you fill pigeon-holed as a specialist in the same roles over and over again? Or would you feel under qualified as a generalist compared to your specialist counterparts? While each of these has its pros and cons, the future of work is characterised by a constantly changing environment. I therefore firmly believe in being both.
Be a generalist with in-depth knowledge over a particular area or be a specialist with broad knowledge of other aspects of the business. So at whatever stage you might be in your career, show-casing elements of both can tip the scale to your advantage and potentially work in your favour.