The Perils of Being a Generalist

In a day where everyone is being encouraged to specialize in something, I take great pride in being part of an endangered species. You see, I am a generalist. I’m one of those people who has to know everything at a functional level (minimum) and then be able to blend those diverse skills into a smooth product.

This used to serve me well when I had to develop a workshop or program in only a day or three. Currently, it’s the source of too many headaches as my ability to learn quickly pairs with my generalist tendencies to make me the sole person capable of doing many things at work. As a friend pointed out to me yesterday, it’s my generalist capabilities that made me Teacher of the Year last year.

While many people think a generalist is just someone who was too lazy to pick a specialization (or perhaps afraid of commitment), I know the truth.

The generalist is the one capable of seeing the big picture, of seeing how all the smaller pieces fit together. They often don’t break down task by the normal skill division lines, because they see that certain tasks just group well together, regardless of the fact they call on separate disciplines. The generalist can adapt quickly to new situations because they can shift their skills around to suit the new expectations, or propose fast solutions for problems because they can see it in multiple dimensions.

Being a generalist has generally made me indispensable in many of my volunteer and teaching jobs, and I’m looking for the perfect opportunity to use the natural flexibility of being a generalist to help guide me into the next stage of my professional life (which I hope will see me developing educational programming again. Anybody looking for a quick learner looking to learn the educational media/interactive design scene?)


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