Are you a Generalist or a Specialist?

Do you prefer to know a ‘lot about a little’ or a ‘little about a lot’?

Growing up I used to hear the saying “Jack of all trades…master of none” and associate it with people who weren’t smart enough to be great at the one thing. It wasn’t until, an incredibly inspiring manager, helped me realise that being a generalist (or a “Jack of all…”) was actually quite challenging and also very rewarding.

This manager, during a development conversation (yes we had development conversations) asked “do you want to be a generalist or a specialist?”. It was a question I hadn’t considered until that point. I was in search of my ‘passion’, which I thought needed to be something ‘specific’ like hairdresser, accountant or lawyer. I had never stopped to consider that my ‘passion’ could actually be quite broad.

Identifying as a ‘generalist’ allowed me to focus on interchangeable skills. Skills that could be applied to a number of different situations across almost any industry – the world was my oyster.

Meghan Casserly believes that generalists are most likely to come out above specialists because of their “innate ability to adapt to new workplaces, job descriptions or cultural shifts”. Organisations also tend to place a lot of value on the meaning of data (context) rather than the data itself (content).

So while I’m proud of my ‘generalist’ title I absolutely believe in the need for ‘specialists’ – they are essential in organisations and life itself (imagine a world without surgeons!).

To determine whether you are a ‘generalist’ or ‘specialist’, here are some questions to consider …

  1. Do you prefer variety or consistency?
  2. Are you utilising interchangeable-skills or role-specific-knowledge?
  3. Do you prefer being a subject matter expert (SME) or an objective influencer?
  4. Are you more interested in ‘content’ or ‘context’?

 

Shelley Flett is a passionate leader with a keen focus on assisting others to identify their goals and move in a direction to ensure they’re achieved.

She is a Directional Leadership Coach, Trainer, Facilitator, Mentor and Speaker who ignites vision and purpose in those she works with.

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