I’ll start by saying, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being a specialist or just loving “one thing”. Frankly I am envious.

But I want to dedicate this post to the Generalists, to those of us that like multiple things, love roles with multiple aspects and/or bring together multiple disciplines.

It took me many, many years to realize, accept and eventually celebrate that I am a Generalist.

What is a Generalist?

There’s probably a few definitions, but I’m going to stay GENERic (yep, I went there) and leave it at “someone who likes a bit of variety in their work life”. Whether that be enjoying a discipline that inherently requires it, or simply that you enjoy roles that cross over more than one.

Good examples that come to mind for me are my own discipline, Product Marketing (you’re technical enough to be a PM but you’re not, you can sell but don’t like to, you’re a marketer but not really) and Architect Strategy roles (you know enough about different aspects of the solution to be dangerous but not enough to actually do all of them).

Why are Generalists important?

Generalists offer 3 incredibly important and impactful things:

  • A view across multiple aspects that provides a unique perspective
  • Insights to multiple workstreams that spot things that individual silos do not
  • An ability to see the “sum of the parts” as an outcome

As I say above, specialist are also important, to be honest us Generalists can’t succeed without you … who do you think we come to when it’s beyond what we know or understand??

Why am I writing this?

Generalists are highly valuable. But they are also susceptible when cuts are made, which as at January 2023, is happening a lot. We’re often seen as a “nice to have” because of a belief that only the specialists are “really needed” to do The Thing. Maybe that has an element of truth, but it’s also a mistake. It provides a short term gain for a very real longer term problem. You will be wanting that Generalist back.

The smart employers are riding this out. “The Market” is a fickle beast, and there’s a lot of knee jerk “shareholder value” crap going on as it does when things aren’t all rosy. The companies that will thrive are the ones that maintain, the ones that realize they have a competitive advantage in their ability to see things differently and with multiple vantage points.

Generalists are what provides you this. Stay Smart.