Which Is Better for Your Career: Specializing or Generalizing?
From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.
When trying to make a successful career, which is better: being a generalist or a specialist?
In other words, should you generalize and know a little about a lot of things? Or should you specialize and have a deep understanding of only one area?
Well, that depends.
"So, when we think about generalizing versus specializing in our career, we're really talking about can you do a broad number of tasks versus do you drill down and do one specific thing really well."
That is Natasha Olinger. Olinger is a human resource expert in Washington, D.C. She talks about the benefits of both. However, the main reason for specializing is an important one: more money.
"So, generally speaking, the common wisdom out there is it's always better to specialize and that you can demand a higher salary if you specialize."
To explain her way of thinking, Olinger uses a fairly common situation – choosing a restaurant. Say you want to eat a favorite Japanese meal: sushi.
If you go to a restaurant that only serves sushi, you can expect high quality products, and you also should expect to pay more. If you go to a place that serves sushi, tacos and pizza, the quality of the sushi may not be so great, but the prices will probably be lower. Olinger says the world of work is not all that different.
However, she adds that all is not perfect in the world of the specialist. If there is a drop in economic activity or possibly a recession, a generalist may get more job offers.
"Though it's generally considered better to be a specialist, the recession of 2008 really showed us that there are times when being a generalist translates to job security even though in boom times being a specialist often leads to a higher salary."
So, are some fields best for generalists and others for specialists? Olinger says the size of the organization can be more important than a sector, or industry.
"I would say the biggest difference — in terms of, is it better to be a generalist or specialist — is more the size of the organization, oftentimes, than the sector. So, smaller organizations tend to need more generalists. And larger companies tend to need more specialists. And this is oftentimes regardless of industry."
So Olinger suggests thinking about the size and type of business you would like to work for. Small businesses often need people who can do many things. Also, companies that are just getting started often need people who are able to perform many different tasks.
For example, your job description may be that of a graphic designer, but you may also have to do some writing. A person who can do many different things is often called a Jack-of-all-trades and is able to wear many hats.
"I would say, think about the type of organization in which you want to work. If you want to work for a smaller organization or possibly a start-up where, you know, you're going to have to kind of wear all different kinds of hats...then you would want to focus more on generalizing and learning kind of a broad set of skills."
Larger companies can be just the opposite. They often need specialists — experts in a given field. In fact, they may require that you stay in your lane, meaning you do your job and nothing else.
"If you really want to go into a much larger corporation you probably want to specialize. They're going to be looking for someone who can solve a very specific type of problem that they have. And there probably isn't going to be as much room or really need to wear all those different hats and kind of pinch hit where needed."
When planning your career path, the best advice might be to "know yourself."
Some people like to know a little about a lot of things. They might lose interest in working on the same thing day after day. These people might be happier in a career that lets them perform different duties.
But what if you really love learning everything there is to know about just one subject? You like the idea of being an expert. In that case, it is probably a good idea for you to specialize. However, if you are preparing to specialize in something, you had better make sure that you really like it.
A mix of both may be best
But perhaps the best solution is a mix of generalization and specialization.
Some career planners call this a "T-shaped" career. The top of the T would be the generalized part. The upright stem of the T would be the deeper understanding of a person's general knowledge — their expertise.
Olinger agrees. She suggests that combining the two may be the best answer.
"I think, ideally, the most successful candidates — in terms of balancing the ability to demand a higher salary and having their jobs be quote-un-quote 'recession-proof' — tend to balance specialized skills with general skills."
She notes, that a lot depends on where you are in your career. It may be easier to be a generalist when you are younger and then slowly specialize as you get older.
However, experts advise workers to keep their skills up-to-date and be willing to make changes, when needed — no matter what industry you work in or how old you are.
And that's the Health & Lifestyle report.
I'm Anna Matteo.
1. regardless of 不顾；不管；不论；
He went ahead and did it, regardless of the consequences.
2. day after day 日复一日；一天又一天；
The newspaper job had me doing the same thing da y after day.
3. specialize in 专门从事；专门经营；专门研究；专攻；
He specialized in criminal law.
4. no matter 不管…；无论…；
No matter where his business took him, he always managed to be home for Thanksgiving.
这是娜塔莎·奥林格所说 。奥林格是华盛顿特区的一名人力资源专家 。她指出两种选择各有益处 。但是，专攻一个领域的主要原因很重要，那就是薪资更高 。
为了解释她的想法，奥林格借用了一种相当常见的情况——选择餐厅 。假设你想吃最爱的日本料理——寿司 。
如果你去一家只提供寿司的餐厅，那你可以期待高质量产品，当然你应该想到这家餐厅的价格也会更贵 。如果你去一家提供寿司、墨西哥玉米饼和批萨的餐厅，那寿司的质量可能不会太好，不过价格可能更便宜 。奥林格说，职场也是如此 。
但是她也表示，就专才来说，并不是一切都这么完美 。如果经济活动下降或发生经济衰退，那通才可能会收到更多录用通知 。
“我认为，就成为通才还是专才来说，最大的不同在于公司的规模，有时公司规模比行业更重要 。比如，小公司往往更需要通才 。而大公司则更需要专才 。这通常与行业无关 。”
因此，奥林格建议人们考虑想进入的企业的规模和类型 。小企业通常需要能做许多事的人 。初创企业通常也需要能执行多个不同任务的人才 。
举例来说，岗位描述可能是平面设计师，但是你还要做一些笔头工作 。能做多种不同事情的人通常被称为“多面手”，这类人能身兼数职 。
“我认为，要考虑你想在哪种类型的企业工作 。如果你想在小公司或初创公司工作，那你必须身兼多职，你要更加注意多面发展，学习各种技能 。”
大公司可能正相反 。他们通常需要的是专才，即特定领域的专家 。实际上，大公司也许会要求你待在你的车道，即只做你的工作，不用做其他事 。
“如果你真的想进入大型企业工作，你可能需要专攻一个领域 。他们寻找的是能解决公司遇到的某种特定类型问题的人 。大公司可能没有太多空间或不太需要身兼多职的人和在有必要时临时顶替的人员 。”
有些人喜欢什么都了解一点儿 。他们可能会对日复一日地做同样的工作失去兴趣 。这些人如果从事能执行不同任务的工作可能会更开心 。
但是如果你非常喜欢学习某一领域的一切知识呢？那你会喜欢成为专家这个建议的 。在这种情况下，对你来说成为专才可能会是不错的主意 。但是，如果你准备专攻某一领域，你最好确保你真的喜欢这个领域 。
一些职业规划师将这称为“T形”职业发展 。T字最上面的横代表通才 。而T字的那一竖代表一个人对一般知识的深入了解，也就是专长 。
奥林格同意这种观点 。她认为将两者结合起来可能是最佳答案 。
她指出，这在很大程度上要取决于你的职业生涯所处的位置 。在你年轻时成为通才可能更容易一些，而随着年龄的增长，你要逐渐向专才发展 。