Friday, February 10, 2012

Generalist or Specialist: Look at Both

In choosing an occupation of interest, you may have researched extensively, including projected growth, industry opportunities, and roles and responsibilities. But did you remember to inquire about areas of specialization? If not, you may want to look closer at the occupation you’re interested in to determine the need for specialization and whether you are better suited to be a generalist or a specialist.

A generalist is someone who possesses broad, “general” knowledge and skills in several areas. If you’re a generalist, you can typically perform a variety of functions within a company and hence often contribute on many levels. A specialist displays deeper knowledge, skills, and experience that is typically concentrated in one area. As a specialist, you might find yourself being the company’s “go-to expert” when it comes to a particular area of focus.

There are pros and cons for each, and both should be investigated before pursuing a path of generalist or specialist. In doing so, be mindful of your personality. For example, do you prefer to know a little about many different functional business areas, or would you prefer to learn the nuances of a particular area? Do you enjoy performing a variety of tasks, or would you rather master a particular area and its related skills?

No matter what path you choose--generalist or specialist--your goals should include continued learning and committing to doing your very best.

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