What we wish the world knew about generalists

The following article is a collaborative effort from folks who champion the value of being a generalist.

💭 What we wish the world knew about generalists

The following article is a collaborative effort from folks who champion the value of being a generalist. In a world where specialization is often celebrated, we come together to challenge that notion and celebrate the strengths that come with our generalist skillset. We see being a generalist as an identity; an approach to the world. By sharing our stories and amplifying many voices, I hope that whoever needs to reads this will feel a little less alone, and a little more validated that their squiggly path is indeed valuable.

This is an evolving article. To contribute your thoughts, click here.

So without further ado, this is what we wish the world knew about generalists.

Being a generalist does not mean you can't commit to something, or that you're not good enough for any one thing. We are great at many things and that represents our strength and commitment.

The world seeks to label us, categorize us and pack us neatly into boxes. But we are humans, not objects. We are viscous. We dance around the lines between solid and liquid.

We change and evolve. We ebb and flow. We shrink and grow.

Fluidity is the essence of our humanity.

Generalists connect the dots and solve problems that no one else can see. We understand enough about many things to give us a broader understanding of what works.

Generalists look beyond the boundaries of each individual topic that field experts might consider irrelevant or just ignore altogether.

Generalists are known for the ability to pull from a diverse skillset and experience to solve complex and "new to them" problems. Those skills and experiences make us flexible and adaptable.

I personally struggle with the idea that I can do anything, but what I want to do is up in the air. If a problem comes around, I can work through it really well, so that's why I feel like I'm a problem-based solver.

Generalists are comfortable, even excited, at being novices. The prospect of learning/doing something new isn’t necessarily intimidating, it’s invigorating!

I’ve never had the thought that I can’t do something, I just can’t do it yet. It’s exciting to feel like I learn my way out of a problem.

Generalists are constantly adding to our toolboxes. Whether learning the ins and outs of a new industry, adding a new practical skill or sharpening our human skills, generalists are additive by nature — it’s a great thing for everyone we work with, especialy when there’s shared goals.

Generalists come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and forms. Many generalists acquire a variety of talents inside a single field, while others have experience in multiple fields and across industries. Generalists hone their capacity for quick adaptation and concept acquisition, which makes them adaptable and a valuable asset. The depth of knowledge and desire for excellence are also major advantages for Generalists.The majority of generalists are empaths who can pool their extensive knowledge & diverse viewpoints to offer the finest solutions when called upon.

Had a sombre conversation with a dear friend lately who gave some advice that I had to repeatedly push back on. He said his career coach once told him that in order to optimize your “golden years” (I think that refers to the first 20 years of your career), you ought to specialize first, then you could afford to become a generalist. He wasn’t wrong, because it worked for him! I wish the world knows that just like everything in life, there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach on how to build your career. We need to be careful not to over-index on any particular piece of advice, and instead learn how to triangulate them, a skill that I think generalists are uniquely good at doing because we question status quo perhaps a lot more frequently than others and at greater velocity, and ask a lot of “whys”.

For me, being a generalist does not necessarily mean I may not have 'specialized' or achieved mastery in something, but rather that I may have achieved mastery in something before moving on to try to master something new.

Thank you to those who have shared their unique perspectives to paint a picture of the power and adaptability that comes with having diverse skills and experiences.

If this resonated, the Generalist World community might be just for you! We’re a fast-growing and much-loved network of folks from all over the globe who provide support and inspiration as you navigate your own journey as a generalist. Click here to join!

Join the conversation

or to participate.