Are we better off being a generalist (commonly known as a ‘Jack of all trades’) or a specialist? It’s a complex question that can be applied to everyone from doctors and lawyers to graphic designers and web developers. Even MMA seems to have specialists as well as fighters who are more well-rounded. Additionally, the concept of generalist vs. specialist isn’t limited to individuals, and is just as applicable to most businesses.
After some research and consideration I’ve concluded that in general, specialization is the way to go. In the sections that follow, I will make a case for specialization by identifying some of the advantages of becoming a specialist as well as for hiring one. Lastly, I will provide some guidance in choosing a specialty as given to me by R&J president John Lonsdorf.
Advantages of Specialization
For individuals as well as businesses, there are benefits to being a specialist.
1. Easier time finding a job or selling their services.
You need to be an obvious solution for whatever need the employer or potential client has. For individuals, this will vary greatly depending on the demand for your specialty among employers and the number of specialists which exist in that field. In business, prospective clients would almost always prefer a specialist if given the choice.
2. Less Stress
As an expert in their field, specialists may experience less stress and anxiety. This is because they know the work inside and out, upside and down. There’s almost no problem they can’t solve.
3. Increased Revenue
Earning potential is naturally a huge factor in deciding whether or not to specialize, as well as in choosing a specialty. I’ve identified three explanations for the higher average earnings enjoyed by many specialists.
- Superior Quality
Practice makes perfect. Specialists typically have more experience in their area of specialization. A deeper understanding of their business models and the industries in which they operate allow R&J to really make a difference for their clients. Fewer errors, better solutions, and an overall higher level of quality justify the specialist being able to charge more for their services.
- Increased efficiency
With mastery comes efficiency. Specialists accomplish their goal faster and with fewer errors than a generalist. It’s important to note that while increased efficiency naturally leads to higher revenue, it often coincides with a lower cost for the client!
In some cases, a specialist has an advanced skillset or knowledge that is relatively scarce (i.e. oral surgeon). In these cases, scarcity can lead to higher revenue for the specialist.
How to Choose a Specialty
Choosing a specialization is a big decision. Recently, I spoke with R&J President John Lonsdorf and asked how R&J chose its areas of specialization, and what advice he had regarding how to choose a specialty.
Opportunity, Aptitude, Desire. These are the three most relevant factors in choosing a specialization, according to John. Opportunity will of course dictate what options are available or worth considering. Another way of thinking of opportunity is demand. Individuals should consider what employers are looking for, while businesses should be diligent in their analysis of the market. Aptitude and desire should be your top considerations as they will be major factors in determining your level of success.
At the end of the day, what matters is you, your happiness, and if you’re being fulfilled. Whether you decide to specialize or be more of a ‘Jack of all trades’, it’s important to commit to one or the other. The last place you want to be is in in-between.