Your Career Path: Deciding Whether to Generalize or Specialize

Apr 02, 2019

By Sunday Tollefson, MBA, PMP® 

Q: Should I generalize or specialize inside of my career? 

A: This is a common question we face during our career. Start by creating some criteria by which you can decide that. Two examples are Purpose and Return on Investment. 

A survey of mid-career corporate women has reveal that we move to new roles for a set of general reasons: we want to round out our resume, or we are bored in our current role, or we are wanting to join a team with inspiring leaders. What is the purpose of your pivot?

Compare the moves in terms of their return on the investment of your income, pay grade promotions, your time taken for skills development. Consider your industry, your skill set, and what your mentors are advising. 

In fact, shifting to a lesser demanding role in order to retool your skill set is completely acceptable. If you need to move around rather than up, that's okay. And if you want to reduce your chances of being laid off, have a larger skill set and broader understanding of how different pieces of the business work together. 

Q: Should I fill gaps in my skills by building up my weaknesses, or should I ignore those and strengthen my strengths?

When you have a skill, and you're good at something, continue to get better at that thing. Pick no more than three strengths that you'll be known for. Think about this as the three legs of your personal brand. And get better at those things. Focus on your strengths. Name them. Know them. Talk about them. Do not be afraid to talk about what you're good at. Say it out loud. Own it. 

What's an example of working on strengths while specializing in a career? That would be drilling down on how managerial finance can impact evidence-based decision making, while also working on developing your people management skills. 

© Sunday Tollefson



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