Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Specialists, generalists and navigating the path to career advancement 9: understanding the generalist jobs and career path option 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on June 4, 2014

This is my ninth 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 my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 359 and following for Parts 1-8.)

I began discussing job and career generalists as a primary topic of focus in Part 8 of this series, with a set of observations and an analysis of the role of generalists in the workplace in general. I then said at the end of that posting that I would continue here, focusing more directly on the new and emerging job and career generalist of this still just unfolding 21st century. And I begin that by noting a crucially defining difference between the effective generalist of the late 20th century and an effective generalist of our rapidly emerging today:

• A new generalist is a generalist who thinks and plans from a solid consideration of, and understanding of how the workplace and the jobs markets are changing.

Here, I refer to the long-term structural changes that are taking place in the larger context that jobs and careers take place in, and not just the more readily predictable cyclical changes that primarily recapitulate same and familiar employment and employability scenarios, and repeatedly. And as background on this I cite my collected supplemental postings and series that I have been adding to the bottom of all three of my directory pages for my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development (see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3.)

And more specifically, I refer here when discussing the new generalist, to taking a very practical approach to thinking through and understanding how an awareness of change would apply in the individual job seeker and job holder and career developer context – your own context.

I add, of course, that a similar overarching observation can and should be made for the new specialist too. In either case: generalist or specialist, succeeding long-term and even just succeeding short-term with any reliability means understanding and navigating a complex and rapidly changing context. For generalists, this means going beyond simply anticipating and predicting the likely next steps in the way one perhaps relatively narrow range of specialization job and career options are changing, and will continue to do so. This means continually thinking through and mentally mapping out a larger jobs and careers pattern and how the functional area and specialization puzzle that collectively constitutes a business is changing and will continue to do so.

• An effective new generalist has to be ready to navigate change and uncertainty as a working value-contributing generalist, as even what have been basic reliable workplace assumptions for that come into question.
• An effective new generalist has to plan for evolutionary and more predictable change, and with the agility and professional flexibility needed to more quickly identify, understand and respond to disruptive, revolutionary change too.
• That does not mean having to be able to respond instantly and perfectly – only more effectively and more rapidly than your jobs and careers competition does. So this is about relative and not about absolute. And it means adjusting to change rapidly but while still taking the time needed to respond effectively too.
• Knowing when and how to pause and consider can make the crucial difference in being able to compete as a best new job candidate, employee, or candidate for advancement.

To take this out of the abstract and with a more historically completable example, consider a director or more senior administrator at a business, who holds overall responsibility for that organization’s online presence. And that means traditional email campaigns and web 1.0 informative websites, with content and online forms. And then web 2.0 comes along with its richer interactivity and online social media arrives with its seemingly omnidirectional open communications where anyone and everyone can have a voice, and online review sites develop out of that and more and more and more seems to immediately follow. I intentionally cite an already realized complex of evolutionary and disruptively revolutionary change here, noting that the generalists and leaders who emerged from this consisted of those, new or old to online systems management and leadership who could best navigate this flood of change.

• The new and still emerging changes to come and the soon to arrive of that are simply going to flood in at a faster pace than ever before and long-term success at finding and securing jobs and at building and fulfilling careers will require navigating the turbulence that all this brings.

I am going to finish this series at this point and will follow it with a series on developing a career out of gigs and short-term work. 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.


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