Generalists Versus Specialists: How to Take Your Career to the Next Level


The conversation about generalists versus specialists has been around for decades. Some argue that a generalist will provide more flexibility to the company while others would say that a specialist would drive more productivity since they only practice a single task. Let’s take a look at the history books to understand better.

Generalists were a defining force during the middle ages. It was this time when we can associate the quote “jack of all trades, master of none”. As a person living in the middle ages, you need to have diverse skills to survive and prosper. It’s not enough that you know how to cook, you should also know how to hunt and prepare what you hunted for cooking.

A century later, enter the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was a period where we advanced our manufacturing processes and technologies to create goods. This is a period where specialists were in-demand because, for example, you needed a specialized person for putting parts together for the key components of a car. Specialists were all about consistency and efficiency.

And here we are today in the 21st century where we need both generalist and specialist skills to thrive. We need to be familiar with related knowledge areas in our job function (generalist) to be more agile and see the whole picture while also providing expertise and experience (specialist).

Here’s where the T-shaped concept comes in. Compared to an expert in one thing (I-shaped) specialist or a “jack of all trades” generalist, a “T-shaped person” is an expert in at least one thing but also somewhat capable in many other things.

Specialist Versus Generalist Versus T-shaped Skills

How can we apply the T-Shaped concept to our careers? Let’s say that you are a digital marketing manager. Your expertise lies in digital strategy, but you also need relevant knowledge of the execution part of paid digital media and marketing analytics for you to do your job holistically, drive more value to the business, and lead transformation in your organization.

T-shaped Digital Marketing Skill Set

The CDM Digital Marketing Strategist Track can help you become a T-shaped digital marketer. In a 60-hour progressive set of courses, gain relevant knowledge on the core and advanced pillars of digital marketing in one discounted package. Upon finishing the CDM Digital Marketing Strategist Track, you will have the industry knowledge and skills to tackle digital marketing strategy for your company.

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