Diversify Or Specialize In Your Career: Pros & Cons
Sometimes less is more, but sometimes it’s not enough.
It’s a difficult question to answer: should you hone a specific skill set, or should you aim to be a “jack-of-all-trades”, and which one will net you the best outcome in your career?
Just like every career is unique, so too should your answer to this question be your own. That said, there are some objective pros and cons that can help you make the decision about where to turn your focus when it comes to professional development.
We’ll take a look at both philosophies and what they could mean to you in your own career.
If you choose this route, you should be branching out in multiple directions to acquire at least a cursory understanding of many different types of work and the processes that make your industry run.
The types of positions you’ll be gearing up for will require you to wear many hats. This can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on your outlook and preferred working style. Let’s have a look at some of the specific pros and cons.
More career path opportunities
Because you prepared yourself for many requirements, many different job opportunities will be open to you. This will let you explore the professional landscape and keep your options open.
Shows you have the ability and motivation to take on new challenges
Having a broad spectrum of employment assets under your belt shows employers that you care about your professional development. Whether you’re looking for a new job, or looking to move up the corporate ladder, being well-rounded helps you stand out.
Keep things fresh and interest
If you’re the type who likes to spice things up with a bit of variety in your daily work life, then this may be the path for you. As someone with a lot of tools in their toolkit, you’ll be able to take on lots of different types of projects to keep things seeming new and engaging.
Generally speaking, when you diversify you are casting a wide net for yourself to fall back on. If big changes hit your industry, or your business needs a realignment, you have the means to make yourself necessary in multiple capacities.
Reduced earning, at least at the start
Generally speaking, your starting wage as a diversified worker will be lower versus a specialist. This is simply because of the level of education and depth of training typically expected of someone who is highly specialized in one area, versus having a survey level knowledge in many pools.
Less control over your own schedule
Diversifying means you are less likely to be a freelance or contract worker, meaning the jobs available to you will likely be more traditional when it comes to hours and vacation arrangements. Be sure to consider your work-life balance when accepting offers.
You may be thrown into the mix on a variety of projects, or given multiple roles within one project alone. These varied and extra responsibilities can be an added stressor if you need to work on your organizational skills, or feel your attention is being pulled in too many directions.
Because you’ll inevitably share some of your skill set with other workers in your field, you can be seen as less of a rare commodity. As such, the job market may be saturated with competition. (Focus on creating a unique skill set, even if you’re not the only one with the individual tools in your tool kit)
Should you approach your career with becoming a specialist in mind, then you’ll be the type who sees the forest for the trees. Honing your craft in a very specific direction will mean you can (and are expected to) produce a higher level of quality in your work, which the everyday worker can’t match. Many business leaders and entrepreneurs will agree with you that it’s best to do one thing, and do it really well. Carving out a niche that makes you the exclusive authority on a given subject can have its ups and its downs; consider whether these pros appeal to you more than the cons detract from this approach.
Higher earning potential
Just as you are expected to output high quality results as a specialist, so too can you expect a higher-than-average pay for your work. Your clients will seek you out for your “perfect” solutions, and will pay aptly for the privilege of having you on their team.
Greater control over your schedule
As a specialist, you are often brought in for one specific project at a time. This means you can typically operate as a freelancer or contract worker, deciding when you work and what types of projects you take on.
Be seen as elite
In any chosen industry, only people who max out their skills can start to push new boundaries. Specialists are usually the people who have such a total grasp on their subject matter that they can improve on perfection. A successful specialist is treated as an expert and authority in their field.
Be your own boss
Similarly to controlling your schedule or contract terms, as a specialist you will not have to deal with management structures or supervisors that you don’t arrange for yourself. Be wary, of course, that your clients can be particularly demanding as well, but when it comes to how you do the work, know that it will be on your terms and no one else’s.
Even as an outside consultant, freelancer, or contractor, if you are the only one with the skills to accomplish a project’s goals, then you will always be the most accountable in the event of a failure. You will also need to accommodate certain aspects of your work life for yourself, such as remitting your own taxes and finding your own insurance, as you are less likely to be a salaried worker.
Make sure you do what you love, because you will be doing a whole lot of it. As a specialist, you will be called on to perform your specialty over and over, so if you can’t find joy in it, you might soon find yourself completely disengaged from your work.
Less support structure
You will typically be left to your own devices, with only a list of expected results. Your clients will typically know nowhere near as much about what you do as you, so relying on them for support is not practical. You may also have fewer peers with whom you can discuss new problems and ideas.
Risk of your specialty being phased out
Think of it as putting all your eggs in one basket. It might be easier to carry, but if the task you’ve trained yourself to be a pro in becomes obsolete, you might too…
Now that you have “diversified” your knowledge of these two career approaches, it’s time to choose which one you’ll “specialize” in!
Do you want to be a towering, independent specialist? Or the ever-capable, jack-of-all-trades?