How to be a pro: specializer or generalizer

Don’t believe anyone that tells you that there are “two types of X.”

That said, there are two options for how you can conduct your professional life: specializer or generalizer.

The specializer is your typical pro. These folks were involved in seven student organizations as an undergrad and majored in three areas. After they graduate they join multiple professional associations and get involved with committees, engage with their colleagues on LinkedIn and Twitter, and blend their work and personal lives.

On the other hand, the generalizers recognize the value of a liberal education. When they aren’t working, these people are playing the guitar, reading Tolstoy, and learning about color theory.

I’ve been the former. While it can make you highly proficient and acclimated to a field’s culture, in essence, the specializer is just another participant in the rat race. The greater value in the latter is that diverse knowledge lends unique perspective and can make your mind fertile for innovation.

In the short-term, you’re more likely to get noticed as a specializer. Your involvement will earn rewards. Good for you. In the long-term, you’re more likely to live a fulfilling life as a generalizer. You’ll get to experience the fullness of life and become a more well-rounded person.

Follow your interests, not the crowd’s.

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