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  • The Rise of the Specialist

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    I have a theory.

    It’s been developing for a few years.

    It’s been tested over the past couple of years.

    And it may be coming to a head now.

    Did the Great Recession Create Specialists?

    This is one conclusion I have come to. I’ve not tested it extensively with regressive and longitudinal studies, but I have noticed that a lot of people seem to have focused on specialization.

    Over the last few years, really since The Great Recession, there has been a transition in many of the people I have observed in that they have transitioned from being a generalist to a specialist very quickly.

    This is especially true with new hires, and especially true with Millennials and Gen Z’s. This is not too unexpected. New hires are just starting their careers – in the case of Gen Z’s this is likely their first big job,

    When they are just starting they are wide-eyed and looking at every facet of the business they can. As they grow in their careers I suspect there is a combination of what they themselves have divined from the business and also from their managers and mentors (Hopefully they have at least one). They realize (or have been told) that they need to focus … which is another way of saying that they need to become more specialized.

    There is a risk in specialization.

    From a Nature POV:

    • A specialist species can only thrive in a narrow range of environmental conditions.
    • A generalist species is able to thrive in a wide variety of environmental conditions and can make use of a variety of different resources

    Overall I’m not sure it’s a good thing but it seems to be becoming prevalent and probably shouldn’t be too surprising.

    There are great arguments on both sides of the Generalist vs. Specialist career path. I consider myself to be a generalist. One way to look at this is that I like to be a mile wide and an inch deep on things. Of course, a specialist is exactly the opposite.

    I used to be a specialist, but I learned over time to widen the net. In doing so I found myself being much less of a deep dive specialist and much more of a broad generalist. I can see both sides of the argument. I’d like to get your point of view.

    A Few Big Questions I’d like you to think about and discuss are below:

    • Does being a specialist help or hurt your career?
    • Can specialists be successful entrepreneurs?
    • Who Stands Out in Their Career more – A Generalist or a Specialist?

    The BIG QUESTION is:

    Will there be more generalist or specialist jobs in the future?

    Discuss! Add your comments here and let’s see whether the generalists or the specialists can come up with a more cohesive argument.

    Jeff is an expert in the Enterprise Content Management industry. He brings over 20 years of Channel Sales, Partner Marketing and Alliance expertise to audiences around the world in speaking engagements and via his writing. He has worked for Microsoft, Kodak, and K2. He is currently consulting with Microsoft and partners to drive Community Engagement and Alliances. Follow him on Twitter @jshuey or on LinkedIn: in/JeffShuey

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