Career Advancement Advice: Is it Better to Specialize or Generalize?

There is no doubt about it, the workforce is changing. And there is a raging debate over the future of work and what skills job seekers need to bring to the table. One of the biggest conversations is that of generalists versus specialists. Can you future-proof yourself against another recession by reskilling and learning something new? How specific should you be with diversifying your skills? Should you specialize or take a more general approach? There may not be one right answer, so let’s look at the circumstances.  

What is a Generalist? 

Generally speaking (no pun intended), a generalist is someone who doesn’t have a specific focus but can handle tasks across a wide variety of duties. As an example, since most people are familiar with what lawyers do, you can be an attorney who can handle any kind of case clients will bring to the table. Or a lawyer can specialize in a field such as family law, real estate law, or criminal law. The same is true for any career path.  

What is a Specialist? 

In this example, a specialist might be the lawyer who specializes in something like estate planning. They may not even know how to work on a criminal case. If you work within an office, you can also specialize. An administrative professional can handle any type of office support of they might specialize as an executive assistant, legal assistant, or real estate assistant.  

Take a Hybrid Approach 

There is some debate over whether generalists or specialists will dominate the workforce in the future. But there may be a better way to make sure that you stand out to whatever employer you may want to target in your search. This hybrid approach is sometimes called the T-shaped skillset. It is a wide broad toplevel of generalist knowledge along with an additional narrowed focused.  

The Most Important Skill 

The letter T also stands for another concept that is very important in the workplace. This is “transferable.” Transferable skills are those that you would take from one specialization to another regardless of that specific industry. Most employers want to hire for potential, so they want to see that your adaptable and not so laserfocused that you won’t learn new things.  


Do you have a plan for your career path? Nextaff can help, so call today.  

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