specializing http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/11297/all en-US Is It Better to Specialize or Generalize? http://www.wisebread.com/is-it-better-to-specialize-or-generalize <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/is-it-better-to-specialize-or-generalize" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/IMG_3424_1.JPG" alt="special tree" title="special tree" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I&rsquo;ve formerly written about the virtues of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ramp-up-your-business-by-specializing">specializing</a> within the confines of running a business and seeking clients. And as an entrepreneurial tool, specialization is quite a valuable skill to have.</p> <p>But what about those of us who are employees, not entrepreneurs? <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/for-love-or-money-must-it-be-one-or-the-other">Are we more employable &mdash; and ultimately happy</a> &mdash; if we become proficient at lots of things (i.e. to generalize), or to become really good at one or two things (i.e. to specialize)?</p> <h2>The Debate</h2> <p>As tends to happen, this article was born of a debate on the topic. The fellow I was debating with is a very successful CEO who has made his mark with a variety of companies. The businesses have varied slightly in nature, but the general industry and his involvement in each business has remained the same.</p> <p>His argument is that to specialize in your chosen career &mdash; and to stick with and further develop it &mdash; is the best route. You become very (very) good at what you do, and are seen as an expert in the field. He believes that specializing is the way to establish a solid career path, make good money, and derive a sense of career (and personal) satisfaction.</p> <p>I don&rsquo;t necessarily disagree. But for the sake of argument, my points of debate centered around the possibility that <strong>specializing leads to career boredom, limits job options, and can ultimately do yourself out of a job if your area of specialty becomes obsolete.</strong></p> <p>Let&rsquo;s look at some contributing factors.</p> <h2>Specialization</h2> <h3>Pros</h3> <ul> <li>You get <strong>higher wages</strong> for having specific knowledge.</li> <li>You are a <strong>desirable employee</strong> in your area of expertise.</li> <li>If you specialize enough, you can become a leading expert <strong>in demand for satisfying ground-breaking projects</strong> or additional work on the side that complements your job.</li> </ul> <h3>Cons</h3> <ul> <li>You have less job security if your area of specialty becomes obsolete.</li> <li>Many areas of specialty require a <strong>university degree or educational certification</strong> of sorts (which is not a problem per se, but might financially &mdash; or otherwise &mdash; be a stretch to achieve).</li> <li><strong>If you are too specialized, the company can&rsquo;t use you for other tasks or jobs</strong>, thus decreasing your overall flexibility as an employee.</li> <li>Too much time working at your specific area of specialty can lead to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/looking-for-the-perfect-career-pick-your-favorite-color">career boredom</a>.</li> </ul> <h2>Generalization</h2> <h3>Pros</h3> <ul> <li>The more possibilities you have for making income, <strong>the less you will feel hard economic times</strong>. Then again, if your area of generalization is too vague, you may become too expendable and be the first in line for company layoffs.</li> <li>To be a generalist often means you keep learning new complementary skills. This continues to build a <strong>good base of employability</strong>, in addition to conquering the long-term boredom factor.</li> <li>Your increased range of employability also means you have <strong>greater chances of being employed closer to home</strong> than a specialist might. You will <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/car-sharing-why-own-when-you-can-just-share">save money on transportation</a> and other expenses that a specialist might bear (even with a higher income that might not cover these adjustments).</li> </ul> <h3>Cons</h3> <ul> <li><strong>Employers might not know how best to place you in their organization</strong> if your skills are too spread out. They may not view you as reliable or tenacious enough with any one job or skill set to be worth hiring.</li> <li><strong>Without a solid idea of what you do, you may find yourself searching, both for personal identity </strong>as well as groping in the dark for what to do next, and for what type of employer you&rsquo;ll work for next.</li> <li>Less focused job searches are more difficult to endure.</li> </ul> <h2>Personal Experience</h2> <p>I come from both the specialist and generalist categories, but find my overall career path solidly identifies me as a generalist. Here is a random list of careers I have had:</p> <ul> <li>Television Producer and Host</li> <li>Actor, Singer, Dancer</li> <li>Administrative Assistant</li> <li>Property Manager</li> <li>Certified Financial Planner (CFP)</li> <li>Outdoor Education Field Guide</li> <li><a href="http://theprofessionalhobo.com/writing-publicity/">Writer</a> &mdash; Travel and Personal Finance</li> </ul> <p>Delve deep enough into any one of these careers, and I can match it with a certain degree of education that I attained for it (usually in conjunction with working in the field), and a degree of specialty within each career (i.e. the types of properties I managed, tv shows I worked on, the type of writing I do, etc).</p> <p>But the skills I learned and employed in each career were not autonomous, and instead complemented the requirements of the next career.</p> <ul> <li>Without my administrative experience, most subsequent careers wouldn&rsquo;t have run nearly as smoothly.</li> <li>Without my time as a CFP, I wouldn&rsquo;t be writing about personal finance today.</li> <li>My acting and tv experience has been instrumental in the emergence of a few possible hosting positions on financial shows that were near misses (such is the industry).</li> <li>And without the full range of careers, I would have been hard-pressed to pull off an appearance on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/about/press">live national tv</a> without breaking a sweat!</li> </ul> <p>So in my personal experience, despite the inherent benefits of choosing an area of specialty and sticking to it, I have found that being a generalist has given me the variety I crave, while still helping me to build a life-long career path that is satisfying and lucrative. Or at least satisfying. (I am a writer and professional hobo now, after all. The money doesn&rsquo;t exactly keep me driving the latest sportscar, but the circumstances allow me to live on the road full-time &mdash; which is currently more important to me.)</p> <h2>Food for Thought</h2> <p><strong>Does your area of specialty have wide employment opportunities?</strong> How specialized is it &mdash; will it put you in more demand, or is it a skill that is easy enough to acquire that many people have it?</p> <p>If possible, choose an area of specialty that still has a fairly broad market and use. <strong>If your specialty is too obscure, you will limit your options.</strong></p> <p>Whether you generalize or specialize, <strong>try to push yourself beyond comfort zones regularly</strong>. This will help you to grow, continue learning, and stay motivated and energized by your work.</p> <p>Some career options require specializing right off the bat. For example to be a medical doctor is considered to be a specialty of sorts, but even within the range of medicine, there are hundreds of areas of specialty you can further explore. What each reader will define as a &ldquo;specialty&rdquo; versus a more general career can vary. For example, is a GP (general practitioner) a specialist or a generalist?</p> <p>In reality, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/looking-for-the-perfect-career-pick-your-favorite-color">career choices</a> are a very personal thing. Other people may let their personal experience cloud the issue and say you &ldquo;should&rdquo; do this and you &ldquo;should&rdquo; do that. Instead, allow own interests, goals, and ideas to determine what you do, as that will get you closest to a career that will make you happy.</p> <p>Here is an interesting article that discusses the <a href="http://bizcovering.com/management/manegerial-issues-generalization-and-specilization/">benefits and drawbacks of specialization within a managerial role</a>. It appears that there is no clear answer as to whether it is best to generalize or specialize.</p> <p>So instead &mdash; as usual &mdash; <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-frugal-balance-staying-away-from-financial-extremes">balance</a> appears to be the key.</p> <p>On that note, <strong>what about being a &ldquo;generalizing specialist&rdquo;?</strong> As the best of both worlds, a generalizing specialist is a jack-of-all-trades and master of a few. They beat out generalists for their deeper breadth of knowledge, and beat out specialists for having more range and flexibility, and a better working knowledge of how it all fits together.</p> <p>So is it better to specialize or generalize? What is your experience?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/nora-dunn">Nora Dunn</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-it-better-to-specialize-or-generalize">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-answer-23-of-the-most-common-interview-questions">How to Answer 23 of the Most Common Interview Questions</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-dream-jobs-youre-never-too-old-to-pursue">9 Dream Jobs You&#039;re Never Too Old to Pursue</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/new-job-dont-make-these-7-mistakes-with-your-benefits">New Job? Don&#039;t Make These 7 Mistakes With Your Benefits</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-launch-your-second-career">How to Launch Your Second Career</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/you-re-fired-20-signs-that-a-pink-slip-is-coming">You’re Fired! 20 Signs That a Pink Slip is Coming</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Career Building career planning generalizing specializing Fri, 27 Nov 2009 15:00:02 +0000 Nora Dunn 3883 at http://www.wisebread.com Ramp Up Your Business by Specializing http://www.wisebread.com/ramp-up-your-business-by-specializing <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ramp-up-your-business-by-specializing" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/IMGP1845_1.jpg" alt="ramp up" title="ramp up" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="333" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As an entrepreneur, you would think that precluding certain types of customers in favor of a smaller &ndash; but specialized &ndash; market would be akin to shooting yourself in the foot. But interestingly, one of the best ways to ramp up your business and create a solid reputation that will ensure a constant flow of <a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;218395891;41475468;y?http://www201.americanexpress.com/sbsapp/FMACServlet?request_type=alternateChannels&amp;lpid=300&amp;o">customers</a> knocking on your door is &ndash; indeed &ndash; by specializing.</p> <p><strong>You sell widgets.</strong> These are widgets that just about anybody can use. But you also know that depending on <em>how</em> your widgets are used, they can be especially useful for, let&rsquo;s say, alpaca farmers (who we&rsquo;ll say for argument&rsquo;s sake, are not terribly uncommon in your area).</p> <p>These alpaca farmers are a pretty tight knit bunch of people. They have a strong Alpaca Farmer&rsquo;s Association with a quarterly magazine. This group also meets bi-monthly to share ideas and business practices, have some good fellowship, and hear guest speakers talk about issues relevant to their industry.</p> <p><strong>Without Specialization</strong>, you could hit the streets and sell a thousand widgets to a thousand passers-by, as long as you put your time in, shaking trees and pounding the pavement. But after you sell those thousand widgets, most of your customers aren&rsquo;t feeling particularly loyal to you, since they don&rsquo;t feel you actually understand their needs; you just happened to be selling them something they needed at the time.</p> <p>So for all the time you spent peddling your thousand widgets, your repeat customers and referrals will be minimal. Hence, selling your next thousand widgets will take almost as much time. And now you have a job where you are trading your time for money. If you have specialization, you can create a business that provides you with at least a little bit of passive income by virtue of all the time and effort you invested.</p> <h2>Specialization Step One: Get Involved and Do Your Research</h2> <p>Instead of peddling your widgets on street corners over and over again to anonymous faces, you decide to specialize. You have a unique angle for how alpaca farmers can use your widgets effectively, and so you decide to focus on them as a target market.</p> <ul> <li>You join the Alpaca Farmers Association as a non-industry member.</li> <li>You attend their meetings.</li> <li>You read their magazine &ndash; with interest &ndash; from cover to cover.</li> <li>In networking with alpaca farmers and reading their publications, you start to get a sense for what is important to this group of people.</li> <li>And when somebody asks you what you do, your &ldquo;elevator speech&rdquo; is a well-rehearsed pitch about how you provide widgets to alpaca farmers who need them to do &ldquo;x&rdquo;. Even if your conversation partner is not an alpaca farmer (and even a potential customer themselves), you say this. Why? Because they might know an alpaca farmer, and if they think you&rsquo;re a stand-up sort of person, they&rsquo;ll be providing a referral, pronto. They may even ask you if you would bend the rules and sell them a widget too (even though they&rsquo;re not an alpaca farmer) &ndash; which of course you will.</li> </ul> <h2>Specialization Part Two: Become an Advocate and Ambassador</h2> <p>Because you are genuinely interested in alpaca farmers and their needs, you learn that a new regulation has come down the pipe that will restrict their ability to do business effectively. As somebody who has a finger on the pulse of the industry along with a bit of perspective, you decide to write your local member of parliament/council in an attempt to advocate for the alpaca farmers. You may even decide to copy a few of your alpaca farmer prospects or the association leader to show them how much you care about them. You&rsquo;re not asking for their business &ndash; they know what you do by now &ndash; you&rsquo;re just showing them that you are supportive of this group and are with them for the long haul. <em>(It must be noted at this juncture that these actions must be genuine in nature, which means you will have developed a real connection and interest in alpaca farmers; otherwise you could come off as a schmarmy salesperson and get the cold shoulder).</em></p> <p>You also gain an opportunity to speak at their association meeting. This is a terrific chance to communicate your message to a lot of people in your target market at one time. You&rsquo;ll obviously discuss widgets, but you&rsquo;ll also do it in a greater context that provides additional value to the members. They will see that you actually understand them as a market and people, and their trust in you will continue to build.</p> <p>Your next step is to write articles for the association magazine. Again widgets can be mentioned in your articles, but the objective is not so much advertising as it is providing useful information. The business will start to flow by virtue of you simply being visible to this market.</p> <h2>Specialization Part Three: Get Business, Referrals, and Continue to Specialize</h2> <p>By now, alpaca farmers have accepted you as a genuinely interested member of their community. You (and they) realize that you can provide them with so much more than widgets, and in return, they will give you their loyalty and repeat business as personal customers &ndash; and eventually, friends.</p> <p>They&rsquo;re also probably going to refer you to other colleagues of theirs &ndash; some of whom will know you from your association activities, and others who will not. Almost all of them will immediately become customers. Why? Because <i>you are the ultimate go-to person</i> for widgets for alpaca farmers. You understand them. They would be crazy not to buy from you.</p> <p>In so doing, they will also likely see the wider applications of your widgets, and will refer you to their family and friends who are not in the alpaca farming business. You will accept this business &ndash; despite your specialization &ndash; because these referrals will probably be just as loyal and valuable to your business as the alpaca farmers themselves. Why? Because they sold your product for you, since you are just so darn good at representing the needs of their special little (largely ignored) group of people.</p> <h2>Other Examples of Specialization in Action</h2> <p>I have a <a target="_blank" href="http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com">travel blog</a>, and like many other travelers who have blogs, I am not entirely proficient at the finer points of running or monetizing it. I get numerous offers from SEO and marketing companies who are offering website services, and I discard most of these offers as quickly as I receive them. Why? Because although I understand that my travel blog doesn&rsquo;t involve rocket science to make it better, I also don&rsquo;t believe the people sending these anonymous form-letters truly understand what I need. Bollocks? Yes, probably; any web-related service could do a stand-up job for me. But I don&rsquo;t know that, and don&rsquo;t have anybody I trust enough to give them a shot.</p> <p>That is, until a prominent travel blogger in the industry kicks out an e-book about <a href="http://theprofessionalhobo.com/2009/09/how-to-make-money-with-your-travel-blog-e-book-review" target="_blank">how to make money with your travel blog</a>. This is a specific product (an e-book) that answers a specific request (make my website better!) from a targeted group of people (travel bloggers). I (and just about everybody else who wants to make money with their travel blog &ndash; which is just about every travel blogger out there) see value and buy a copy of the book.</p> <p>Could this book be applicable to other genres of Web Sites and blogs? Absolutely. But because this author specialized, he gained the trust of travel bloggers (he had already been working on this area of specialization and had the trust of many), and has become a continued go-to resource for them. And word of mouth in the travel blogging industry (as with many industries) is not to be underestimated.</p> <p>When I was a Certified Financial Planner, I specialized too; I worked with business owners and managers in the plumbing and sheet metal industry. It seemed like an odd market to pursue at the outset, but as I continued to network with these people and be visible at association meetings as the speaker or attendee; as I wrote articles for their quarterly magazine; and as I attended the Christmas party of a client of mine only to be seen (yet again) by some of their sheet metal colleagues at the same party, the referrals poured in.</p> <p>And business branched beyond my plumbing and sheet metal clients, as it does. I always believed in <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-financially-educate-your-children" target="_blank">family participation</a> when it comes to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-signs-you-need-to-fire-your-financial-planner" target="_blank">financial planning</a>, and I received referrals to many branches of large families related to somebody in my target market. Eventually I didn&rsquo;t have to go looking for new clients; they came to me.</p> <h2>Specialized Parting Words</h2> <p>Don&rsquo;t be afraid. You won&rsquo;t push away other business (at least not as much as you think) by virtue of focusing on a small target market. Instead you will be perceived as desirable, special, and may be pursued even more for business &ndash; even by people who aren&rsquo;t in your area of specialization. And within your specialized market&hellip;you will dominate.</p> <script type="text/javascript"> federated_media_section = "platinum"; </script><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/nora-dunn">Nora Dunn</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ramp-up-your-business-by-specializing">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/101-tax-deductions-for-bloggers-and-freelancers">101 Tax deductions for bloggers and freelancers</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/eco-capitalism-how-to-make-money-from-garbage">Eco-Capitalism - How to make money from garbage</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-signs-its-time-to-make-your-side-gig-your-career">6 Signs It&#039;s Time to Make Your Side Gig Your Career</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/starting-your-dream-business-is-easier-than-you-think-heres-how">Starting Your Dream Business Is Easier Than You Think — Here&#039;s How</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-internet-riches">Book review: Internet Riches</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entrepreneurship Small Business Resource Center business specializing target market Thu, 10 Sep 2009 17:00:02 +0000 Nora Dunn 3589 at http://www.wisebread.com