Generalists or Specialists: The more rewarding career

According to some, range encourages the generalist strategy by pointing out the advantages of breadth, diversity of experience, interdisciplinary thinking in addressing global issues.

Some people, however, favor hyper-specialization in a given subject. Corporate recruiters are a good place to further assess the influence of experts since they frequently prefer hiring “specialists” for open positions and are typically ready to pay more for them.

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Specialist awe is not a contemporary phenomena. In fact, the proverb “jack of all trades, master of none” dates back to the Middle Ages.

Having said that, depending on the circumstances of the job, both generalist and specialized have important roles to play.

When something is serious, like when we need spinal surgery, we prefer specialists. Let’s examine some trends and how they affect business.

The glitter of academic qualifications is diminishing.
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Many businesses no longer demand college degrees in order to fill open positions. While degrees offer a wide range of broad information, certification offers particular expertise.

Short-term, skills-based certifications are being developed by companies like Google, IBM, Salesforce, Facebook, and Microsoft.

The market rewards certification more as it is less time-consuming. The narrow domain emphasis of the specialty certifications appears to be working in their favor.

The new credo is skill growth and scalability.
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According to McKinsey, 87% of businesses have skill gaps that may be filled through retraining. The importance of understanding how to think rather than just what to think is emphasized.

Mid-career changes are no longer frowned upon.
Career changes

According to the most recent poll conducted by Indeed, almost half of the people surveyed indicated they had “made a radical career transition,” such as moving from sales to research or from education to finance.

Employees are growing more assured that their generalist abilities will enable them to succeed in their new positions.

Specialists occupy the roles, and multi-purpose players fill the succession boxes.

It is commonly known that diverse teams are more creative and make better decisions.

A person is a multi-utility player (MUP) in an organization when they have a variety of experiences. It’s interesting to see that specialists are frequently chosen to fill succession roles.

A specialist’s prior performance in that capacity might be used as cover for the explanation, with past success serving as a predictor of future performance.

The road to becoming a CEO is rarely smooth.
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According to HBR, 90% of the 17,000 CEOs they studied had experience in general management. CEOs must “make lateral, unusual, and sometimes dangerous career moves,” claims HBR.

The same may not hold true for other C-suite executives, even though this may be an obvious case for CEOs. The legal, financial, or any other specialized functions are rarely led by generalists.

There is no winner.
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In the argument between generalists and specialists, there is no obvious winner. The importance of context and the type of work determine which is preferred.

Each perspective has benefits of its own. It makes sense that entry-level positions begin with specialized abilities, and over time, career pathways change to become more specialized or generalist depending on the roles.

Choose the path of being a “jack of all” with a Global MBA or a specialist one with a degree focused in Project Management.

Written By:

Written By:

Pooja Shah is the Head of Digital Content and Engagement at Barcelona's C3S Business School. She has over 12 years of international experience in the field of education, with a diverse portfolio of roles. She is the driving force behind the school's digital content on its website and social media platforms. She went on to get her MBA with a specialty in Human Resources after excelling academically in her Bachelor's in Computer Applications. Her passion is to educate and inspire the humanity, thereby contributing her bit to the society.