In today’s world, is it better to be a generalist or a specialist? If you are a newly graduate or in the early stages of your career; you are probably at a crossroad and wondering which career path to choose. Which one is better? Which will pay more? What path will help you become more successful in your career? Actually, even if you are already well into your career; it is a question that you probably asked yourself at least once, on whether or not you made the right choice. But before we go on any further, it is best to understand first what it is to become a generalist or a specialist for that matter.
A specialist is someone who is an expert in a specific field. They have an in-depth understanding of a particular occupation or field of study. More often than not, specialists took further training or studies in that specific field. For example, a cardiologist is a specialist doctor who focuses on the heart and the blood vessels.
Why Take Up a Specialization?
There are many benefits to specialization but the most obvious advantage is that you become highly skilled and proficient in a specific field. It increases your productivity and output resulting to overall improved performance. With your refined skills, you are actually providing more value to your employer making it harder for them to replace you. You become more competitive with your highly specialized skills. So, more often than not, it leads to higher earnings. As a bonus, it also leads to increased respect from your peers and co-workers.
However, the drawback is that since specialists normally expect higher earnings, there are fewer job openings because not many companies can afford to hire a specialist. There is also the risk of being obsolete especially in the field of technology wherein major advancement and innovation are happening daily. On a personal note, since specialists will be doing the same kind of task over and over again; there is a risk of burn-out or boredom. Thus, it is not recommended for everyone. At the very least, taking up a specialization should be a matter of choice. Rather than taking up something that is in demand, one should instead consider one’s interests and career goals.
On the other hand, a generalist is someone who knows a lot of skills. He is someone who is knowledgeable about a lot of topics. Because of this, they have a broader approach on looking at things. And more often than not, have the ability to see the bigger picture. Thus, generalists tend to have a wider and loosely-defined role in an organization.
Why Is It Good to Be A Generalist?
Because generalists can see the bigger picture, they have the ability to think out-of-the-box. This skill is needed most specially in a fast-changing environment. They can easily see the interconnectedness of things and find solutions in things where a specialist might miss. Thus, generalists often become leaders and managers in organizations. Their skill sets are transferable and can be applied regardless of what department they are leading.
However, generalists are said to be “a jack of all trades, master of none.” Because of this, generalists normally lack an in-depth understanding of things and may only see the surface. This is crucial because in some cases, the missing information that the generalist might overlook can be vital to the success of the project. Although generalists tend to have more job offers than specialists, the job security is not as stable. After all, it is easy to replace a generalist.
Is it Better to be A Generalist or A Specialist?
The answer depends on the individual. You can be successful either as a specialist or generalist. If you are one of the lucky few who already knows what they want to do early in life; it is a good idea to be a specialist in that specific field. You will gain success and recognition if you unleash your genius and live your purpose in life. But what to do if you don’t know what you want? Then be a generalist.