Career specialist or generalist, how do you decide?

Is it better to become a specialist in just one area of your chosen profession or to take jobs across the profession so you have a broader understanding of the profession and what you can contribute to it? I opted for a variety of specialties in my career and have not regretted it but I recently came across another point of view.

This person, in a Q&A on the blog, says he was a generalist but thinks it might have held him back in his career.

Generalist or specialist, how do you market yourself?

Generalist or specialist, how do you market yourself?

“I found that recruiters and companies often seek round pegs to fit into round holes – meaning professionals with deep functional specialization and industry-specific domain expertise that fit a given specification to the T.  As a cross-functional generalist, I often didn’t fit neatly into those round holes,” says Rudi Strobl.

He goes on to say working cross-function wasn’t a waste, but the important point, I think, is you have to market yourself to fit whatever peg a recruiter or hiring manager is trying to fill. That means a unique pitch for each job tailored to that job. Giving a one-size-fits-all spiel about your many jobs won’t do the job and won’t get you the job.

John N. Frank


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