The Generalist

Are you a specialist or a generalist? Choosing between the two will determine how successful you are in your job search. Which one are you?

When it comes to finding the right job you are sometimes obliged to determine what box you fit into.  You are asked to define your talents, skills and gifts as if you were being asked to select off a fast food menu of options.  In today’s crazy and seemingly unstable job market, it’s not enough for you to guess which of your many skills will be the winning combination to pique someone’s interest.  There was a time when specializing in a certain area was of key interest to prospective employers.  The job landscape has changed and now more than ever you need to possess a diversified skill set to show how flexible and multi-talented you truly are.  So is it cool to be the specialist or the generalist?

When you specialize in an area, whether it be animation, productions, sales, finance, marketing, you may have one function or special skill that you were hired to perform. Over the years, your career may have opened you up to learning new talents or you were promoted and received increased responsibilities.

Whichever the case, if your job has you touching more than one area or discipline or has you multi-tasking across several disciplines, you count yourself among the generalists. The term “generalist” implies someone who has diverse skill sets across multiple disciplines.  You could have specialized in one particular area at one point in your career, but having the ability to work in many areas is an asset today worth highlighting.  Many recruiters will tell candidates that their resumes are “All over the place,” suggesting that they have too many diverse skills listed and it will make the job matching that more difficult.  It’s true, you don’t want to over emphasize that you are a jack of all trades, master at none, but there is nothing in the career books to suggest that you can’t be a master of many talents and if so, what is the best way to flaunt those talents.

Highlighting your skills can be as simple as prioritizing your interests and knowledge in a particular discipline. Taking stock in what you’ve accomplished, learned or excelled in creates the foundation for you to promote yourself and your talents to prospective employers.  Focusing your attention on the 5 to 6 areas of interest and accomplishment shows prospective employers that you are well-rounded and can adapt to change in a flexible work environment.  In a market with as many ups and downs and changing priorities this is an asset that should not be overlooked. Being a true generalist has its advantages and knowing how to best leverage yourself will make your next career move easier.

Here are a few tips to highlight the true generalist in you:

1- Take inventory of the 5-6 skills you have mastered and bullet point your key accomplishments next to each.

2-Make sure you include skills that you have worked on at least 25% of the time over the course of your career.

3-Include talents and skills where you might have been promoted, received an award or were asked to train or teach others as a best practice.

4- Acknowledge any management & leadership experience because sometimes overlooked, this is an important skill most people take for granted and don’t often include.

5-If you created, innovated, excelled or mastered an area that you may have forgotten about or was long ago, remember to include it in your list.  Just because you many not have performed those functions in awhile does not mean it no longer counts towards your list of many skills worth emphasizing.

Making sure to organize, highlight and self promote your many talents in a very competitive job market will help you stay just a little bit ahead of the curve.  At the very least, when you are done it should provide for a confidence booster knowing all that you are capable of accomplishing.

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