Transcript 118. Am I a generalist or a specialist?

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Hi, I’m Renata Bernade. And this is the Job Hunting Podcast, where I interview experts and professionals and discuss issues that are important for job hunters and those who are working to advance their careers. So make sure that you subscribe and follow and let's dive right in. 

Before we begin. I want to invite you to register for my free Job Hunting Masterclass on the first and 2nd of February, 2022, the times, details, and the link to register are in the episode show notes, or you can find it on my website, That's R E N A T A B E R N A R D E. If you're a newsletter subscriber, please check your inbox because I will have already sent you the details in the newsletter. 

And I look forward to seeing you there.  

So today's episode is [00:01:00] about being a generalist or a specialist. Do you know if you are a generalist or a specialist, if you believe that you are a generalist, a Jack of all trades that often steps in and you were able to lead or do the job regardless of sector or industry, you may be surprised to learn that you may not be a generalist after all. 

If you're worried that you're a specialist and your niche is too narrow, and you may not be able to advance in your career. You may also be mistaken. People think of generalists as Jack of all trades and specialists as deep experts, but this may not be the case and it may be a very narrow and limited view of these two labels. 

It really depends on the context. And this is where I see the mistake being made with clients. When they first reach out to me, most of them defined themselves as strictly one or the other and think that whatever they think they are is the wrong thing to be. Let's [00:02:00] understand the idea of generalists and specialists as it relates to the context in which you're working in right now, this is really important. 

Being a generalist or a specialist is heavily dependent on the context. A company that you work for right now. I found this blog from Michael Page, and now I have a link to it in the episode show notes so that you can read it as well. And it really explains, well, this idea of contextualizing this information so that you don't misuse your label. 

Basically, if a professional is a generalist when it comes to, let's say it’s IT knowledge. So, you're an IT professional, but you work in a company that is not an IT company. You may be considered a specialist in it simply because you have a much deeper knowledge of IT, than the rest. Peers and colleagues in that organization and this same person, this same, it [00:03:00] professional. 

If they were to work in nit firm, they would be called a generalist and not a specialist due to the fact that. IT expertise is actually wide compared to their peers who have deep knowledge in the industry. So, when you move out of your organization, let's say you've been in that context for two, three, maybe many years. 

And you start explaining yourself as a generalist. Sometimes I'm really puzzled by it. You know, when people reach out to me for my 30-minute chats so that they decide if they want to work with me as a culture or not, they will say, oh, I'm a generalist. And then I look at their LinkedIn and I'm thinking, man, you’re no generalist. 

So, it's kind of like an awakening. I have to explain to them why they're not a generalist or vice versa, why they're not as niche down and narrowed as they thought that they were. And they actually have a [00:04:00] more, a wide base of experience. So when pitching to a new job, an employer, or a recruiter, you need to. 

Go have these labels and know where you want to go with your career, where your previous experience and expertise is and what it was built on. No matter what you are considered in your current context, you may be misusing the label and confusing your audience, right? So everyone of you listening to. You carry with you a sustainable advantage that doesn't get replicated easily because you have a unique career and a career progression. 

So by labeling yourself as a generalist or an expert, um, right off the back, you may be undermining that deep knowledge and that sustainable advantage that you have that can be, cannot be replicated. So you can. [00:05:00] All kinds of jobs and you are not, if you're so undermining that by starting your pitch, by saying that you are a generalist, for example, that you can do every type of job. 

And that's a common mistake. And that's why I'm using this as an example, that people often do that when they're looking for jobs. And when they're anxious about finding something. Pitch themselves as a generalist, they've pitched themselves like, you know, I've been in the sector for a long time, but I'm actually a generalist. 

The truth is you're not going to make yourself memorable in the eyes of the recruiter you're talking to. And also they will not agree with you. So it's better for you to have the nods, you know, when you're talking to somebody and somebody starts nodding and agreeing with you, that's when you know that you are on the right track. 

Right? So you want them to agree with your understanding of your own career and you want to be in memorable in their eyes. And so that they keep you top of [00:06:00] mind. Right? So, It's true that generalists can't always compete with specialists and that's vice versa as well, uh, to be Frank. But I think that there is this misunderstanding that if you are a generalist, You're probably more, you can sprinkle your, your opportunities and that you can land on many different jobs. 

And, um, vice versa, you know, a specialist may find themselves, themselves being too narrowed. People are often dissatisfied with whatever label they think they have. So if you position yourself as a generalist right now, please know that, and you're confused or worried about that. Please know that you don't have to be. 

And if you think that you're a specialist and that's why you're not progressing in your career again, don't worry about. Let's go above and beyond those labels in that sense that I explained before, in terms [00:07:00] of the context in which you have operated in, and now that you're moving out of that context, how important it is for you to find the right pitch for you to get those nods in the audience. 

When you talk to people okay. Specialists and generalists, they can co-exist. And in fact, they're both needed for great organizations to flourish. So whatever you're reading about how good it is to be a generalist or how important it is to find your niche and be a specialist. Don't focus about that too much. 

What you need to do is understand what you have. Gained and what, how you can position yourself to be memorable so that you can then be wanted by your next employer. So I have a few suggestions for you, so let's move on. So, you know, I, I hope I, haven't confused you, I often wonder, you know, and I'm talking, am I making sense? 

Because I'm so passionate about what I'm saying and when I'm talking to a client of grace, I can see if. They're [00:08:00] getting you or not because of their faces of their nods or their puzzled looks. But when I'm talking to a podcast, I just have to hope. I have to hope that you get it. And if you're a subscriber of my newsletter, replay it back to the newsletter to let me know if you understood what I, what I had to say here today. 

Cause I'm finding this topic a little bit difficult, but I'm about to give you some suggestions that I think. Ease the blow. If you're found yourself confused about being a generalist or a specialist. So first of all, my suggestion is for you to really deeply under understand, and you have to reflect on it on a, what is your career DNA? 

It's not as hard. First of all, think about your bachelor’s degree was what your educational experience was. So if you don't have a university education, then what was your, the string that, that weaved all of those jobs together that you've had in the past? Was it, you know, that you worked for many, many years in [00:09:00] retail, was it that you worked in many, many years in an it company? 

So it's usually that, and yeah, I have mentioned before, but I it's worth mentioning it again. Sometimes I speak to. Tell me that they're generalists, but for example, they have an accounting degree and in fact, they're a CPA, so they're not an accountant anymore in that. That's why they don't use that as part of that pitch their pitch. 

But it's so important for the recruiter to know that you have that DNA, that background, you know, of being somebody that have that commercial now is that understands PNLs that can read those financial reports. And if you can. Collude that in your pitch, I think it's really important. So knowing your DNA is important, right? 

And the second thing is, even though you think you are a generalist, choose a niche. If you are already an established professional chances are, you may already have. This part determined. [00:10:00] You may already have worked all your career in tech companies or in consultancy or in banking and finance or in retail. 

You may have already done that. So if you don't, don't worry, right. But if you do wear that shirt, you know, don't be afraid of being somebody who has. Deep experience in something it's or a sector or an area it's important to convey that as part of your pitch. So analyze your past employment history and look for those repetitions and those similarities. 

I particularly don't have a linear career. Um, I haven't, I didn't have that. So I had to look for repetitions and things that I did over and over again that were successful for me. Parts of my jobs. You know, my jobs are kind of patchwork of things. So I, I, you know, when I was looking for yet another job, I had to look back and think, okay, ah, here we go again. 

I don't, I didn't have a linear career. It may not make sense to other people. So [00:11:00] I had to. Find those repetitions and those similarities within the roles and bring them forward as part of my pitch, as part of my documentation, you know, the resume and the LinkedIn profile and whatnot. So here are a couple of things you may want to consider. 

If you're finding it hard to find those repetitions in similarities, what are the hot topics in your profession right now? Can you associate yourself? And you're one of dos. So here's a test. Do you have a skill and experience in a topic that you can talk about for hours, if you do, then that is already telling it's already telling you something about. 

Those repetitions, those similarities. They'll things that rock your boat that make you excited and passionate too, to be working, to try to weave those things that are of interest to you that bring you joy, that help you connect with the listener with those hot topics in your profession, because those [00:12:00] are the hot topics are hot topics for a reason they're trends. 

They're important for the growth of your. Industry or sector or expertise. So find what they are and weave them into your page. This is so important because so many job candidates are so focused on getting whatever job and saying that they're generalists to try to please their audience, but it's so much easier to engage with a recruiter or an employer and build that strong connection with them. 

Passionate about what you're talking about. So it, you know, an example of this is when I invite guests to be on my podcast and I, I have a very casual podcast if you're following me, you know, and, and I, I usually don't have any conversations prior to the interview with my guests and I, what I write to them. 

And I tell them is this, if it's not falling off the. It's not worth talking about, right. I'm not going to invite you to come on my podcast to talk to me about something [00:13:00] you're not absolutely passionate about. You're not an expert in, I'm going to invite you to talk about the things, you know, more than anyone else. 

Right? So this is why. To preempt the conversation with an like a conversation prior to the interview, because then we're going to be repeating and it's not as natural and it's not as organic. So I mean, different podcasts do different things. And I have been in podcasts that do have that conversation prior, and that's fine too, but for me, for my personal style, I invite people to come and talk to me about the things that they are absolutely the best at talking about. 

And I want you to feel the confidence in that, that to feel that you have those topics that you are passionate about talking as well. And you can also think about those topics. And if you have more than one, if you have several things that you can talk about, think about which topics provide. Because chance of promotion with the biggest chance of getting [00:14:00] another job of monetizing it. 

Right? So I am great at talking about stuff that is not going to make me money. I am the queen of doing that, but this is specifically important. If you are in a hurry. To career advance to get a job or get a promotion. So you focus on the lower hanging fruit, you know, the warm stuff, the things that are, you know, are out there and are important for the job market. 

So for example, if you're an experienced banking executive and you see. Corporate fraud or any type of fraud is where your banking's investing all its money, you know, international fraud. I don't know. I'm actually, I have no idea what I'm talking about because I've never worked in a bank, but I'm using this as an example, uh, so that you can kind of think, okay, This is where things are heading. 

This is an area that I am actually passionate about. I may not be an expert, but I know quite a lot. I've worked with these people. Maybe I can invest my [00:15:00] time becoming better and better at this. Right? So you set your job search for a success. And setting your job search for a success is really having that deep reflection and planning and understanding of how you present yourself to others and coming out of a, an organization. 

If you've been there for a while, means that you have to detach yourself from the labels that were put on to you. In that organization and find yourself a new narrative that is more conducive of you getting the best possible chance in the job market. As you move out of your current role. Look, I know that job hunting can get stressful. 

You know what it can be super exciting as well. If you treat it as a cool project of self discovery of understanding how you're perceived in the job market and how you can grow from it, investing in it and making it a learning experience for [00:16:00] you will pay enormous dividends, not only in the short term, as you search for your new job, but also you will get ideas of where you really want to be and where you really want. 

Go in the future. And as you talk to people, you will learn more and more about your profession. So, remember that the goal is to grow as a professional and earn more, not always, but most times people, when they're moving jobs, they want to earn more as well. And these things don't happen overnight, and they don't have. 

Accidentally. Right. So there, there is a little bit of thought and care that needs to be invested in to get you where you want to go by investing in your job search. You can really see the results at the end of this project of yours. You know, you will see that you will get a job faster. You'll be more mindful of what you're doing and be able to negotiate a Bella, Sarah, a better salary and find a workplace that suits you. 

I want you to be comfortable with [00:17:00] whatever you are, specialist or a generalist or something in between. And I want you to feel comfortable about sticking to your game. You may be surprised that it will actually pay off and you don't have to be. You are not. If you are uncertain about your status as a generalist or a specialist, then come work with me. 

You can book a consultation to refine your pitch or a better still you can join the group coaching program because that's a way more holistic and comprehensive. As I can hold your hand through the entire recruitment process. It goes for seven weeks. So, you know, it's being very successful in 2021 and I'm hoping 20, 22 will go gangbusters again. 

I'm so reopening the registrations and we're starting in February and the best way to kickstart this idea of joining the coaching program is to attend my free masterclass on the first and 2nd of February, there's a link in the show notes, or [00:18:00] you can go to my website,, and you know, I hope that you will join me even if you're not looking for a job because it's always important to keep a finger on the pulse of what's happening in the world. 2022 is turning out to quite the year. And I have my predictions and I have my ideas of how I think professionally. I have better results in recruitment, processes, and promotions. 

So come, come, and ask me questions. There will be definitely enough time for that. I hope to see you there. That's it for today. And I look forward to seeing you next week. Bye. For now. 




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