Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Specialists, generalists and navigating the path to career advancement 2: taking a more 21st century approach 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on March 27, 2014

This is my second installment to a series on the changing nature of specialist and generalist career path options, and both as their choice impacts on job search and the immediate here-and-now of employment and employability, and on longer term career advancement opportunity (see Part 1: a more traditional approach to understanding these career path options .)

I focused in Part 1 on the opportunities and challenges that specialist and generalist career path routes have traditionally taken, where by “traditional”, I mean over the past several decades as of this writing, and throughout the careers up to now, of people currently of working age. My goal for this posting is to at least begin looking forward from that to what job holders and job seekers are increasingly beginning to face, that is rapidly on the way to becoming our new workplace and jobs market normal. The nature and roles of specialists and generalists in business and their employability options and strengths are going to significantly change in the coming years and workers of today need understand and prepare for what is to come to remain as competitive in the jobs market and work place as they can.

So I begin this part of this series’ overall discussion by putting it more directly and explicitly into a context that I have been developing in this blog in other series that discuss how the workplace and job market are changing. As foundation material on that complex of issues, see:

• The series: Discerning the 21st Century Workforce (at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development as supplemental postings 22-25),
Some Thoughts on the Emerging Workplace and Employability Great Restructuring 1 and its Part 2 continuation,
• The series: Should We Do Something Simply Because We Can? (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, supplemental postings 56 and following, and
• My open letters postings as can be found in the supplemental postings sections of Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its Part 2 continuation.

The workplace and the job market that feeds into it are undergoing profound, fundamental change, and so have the requirements that we all have to be able to meet if we are to be and to remain employable long-term and through the course of career paths. And I begin discussion of this with the issues and challenges of specialization, as that route has been the easiest and most effective for finding employment in the here and now, and for meeting the immediate, current needs of hiring managers.

And I begin that part of this discussion by citing one more posting from this blog that I have found of interest in a number of contexts, and from both the job seeker and employee perspective and from the Human Resources and business perspective:

A Critique of the Peter Principle – career as a series of growth and transition phases.

I wrote in that posting of how our hands-on skills can become outdated and cease to effectively create competitive value for us in the job market. We are entering a phase where we can drift out of competitiveness at a much more accelerated rate, and where a technological innovation in artificial intelligence supported automation can in effect push us into irrelevancy and out of work in the blink of an eye.

I wrote in that posting of the need to keep learning and developing new skills if we are to remain relevant. The changes we are facing in workplaces and the job market mean that we can no longer assume that we can wait until a tomorrow to take that next step in advancing our skills and experience levels that we can bring to the table. And this ongoing trend also means that we have to be much more thoughtful and much more understanding of our industry and of the forces that shape it if we are to work towards developing the right new skills.

• It cannot help us to add new skills to our tool set that would become obsolete as quickly as the ones that we have now. At most that would only provide a false sense of security as to our ongoing employability.

We need to be that much more flexible and that much more discerning in how we develop and expand our hands-on skills and in what experience we develop with these new skills that would make us a competitive choice for offering them. And we need to develop new forms and levels of flexibility in the face of the inevitable: being caught off-guard by the emergence of disruptively new innovations that would reshape the job market and employability, lowering the need for types of workers who have perhaps been stably employed and employable and even making entire job categories simply disappear.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will discuss the need to move past simple narrow specialization, as narrowness per se has become and will continue to become more and more of an employability liability than anything else. But that does not necessarily mean everyone should become a generalist either. I will discuss that too, and more middle-ground alternatives to either specialist or generalist. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: