Professional Development Forum

 View Only
  • 1.  Specialists and Generalists - Valuing both

    Posted 05-10-2021 13:29
    This is an intriguing look at the swaying pendulum of business trends over time.

    Why generalists will become more valuable

    I've noticed over the last decade or so that job descriptions have narrowed significantly to the point where people's positions are defined to specialize in some particular task more than the outcome that's desired. As this article explains, that has both good and less good effects depending if you are a specialist or a generalist. As a generalist, I've noticed that a broad and balanced skillset seems to have lost value as a hiring characteristic, though the need for knowledge and to be able to function in multi-disciplinary environments has not abated in practical terms.  Are you a specialist or a generalist?  In the new, emerging post-Covid universe of work, is there a role for both? What would that be?

    Colette Martin-Wilde

  • 2.  RE: Specialists and Generalists - Valuing both

    Posted 05-11-2021 07:03
    @Colette Martin-Wilde, coming from a Higher Education background, this reminds me a bit of the pros/cons between​ the liberal arts education and more specialized degree programs. (Take a look at this quick read from the Washington Post, for instance.) The idea being that while they may take longer and be more expensive, they also prepare you for a wider variety of experiences in life. The key, though, is whether a person knows how to fully utilize these "transferable skills" (a phrase I used waaaaaaaay too much as an Academic Advisor at a liberal arts college). 

    Side note: While "transferable skills" might have been my favorite phrase, What Can I Do With a Major In... was probably my favorite website at the time - especially because I advised mostly undecided/exploring students. 

    The same concept applies here, too. My career path has gone: middle school teacher, high school residence life coordinator, college hall director, academic advisor, preconvention specialist, learning specialist, community engagement specialist. I can certainly pull out my "through line" in all of these, but the average observer might think I'm a bit more all over the place. I like to think that a portion of hard skills (how to run this program, how to do this series of tasks) can be taught easier than the softer skills (teamwork/collaboration, flexibility/adaptability, considering multiple perspectives, etc.) but I understand that's only true to an extent. 

    All this to say - I understand that some roles will always be better suited to specialists, but I'm a generalist at heart. My ideal team is made of several generalists with their own specializations. Ya know, like a bunch of liberal arts nerds who took similar "gen eds" but majored in different subjects. :)

    Stay awesome,