Why you can not afford to be universal

Original author: Corbett Barr
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Note from the translator: in the article you will not find any practical advice on how to choose your specialty or become an excellent specialist in a particular field. I publish this article because it became a necessary bucket of cold water, which helped to recover during my “grab for everything” period. And I hope she helps someone else.

If you consider yourself a generalist, we have good news for you: a good job in the future will require universal skills, especially if you work independently or in a small team.

More and more people today work independently. 40% of American workers will become freelancers by 2020 (and, according to the Freelancer's Union, 33% are already them), and if he wants to succeed, he needs to be a universal. To do this, you need to know a little about everything.

Founders of companies must also be generalists. Business management requires so many responsibilities! But here lies the problem: You cannot afford to be just a generalist. People are hired by profession or by a small set of in-depth knowledge and skills. Products are bought to solve specific problems. Enterprises are built on specific knowledge and experience.

If you proudly carry the title of wagon, you complicate your life. I know this, because before I diligently drafted my resume in such a way as to expose myself as a jack of all trades. First, I decided to position myself as a software developer, then as a project manager, and then as a guy with Traffic, after I went for free bread, that is, when things went well and everything became possible.

When is a wagon hired through job advertisements? Where is the "station wagon required" section on Craigslist? How does a founder with only superficial skills manage to get his first prototype off the ground?
The motivation to become a universal is understandable. Learning new is great. It is interesting to know a little about everything. Throwing new knowledge into the unknown depths is a technique you can always count on.

But this is still an escape from reality. The learning process is the simplest in the first 20 hours. You can learn many new things while the information is fresh and interesting. But is it possible to acquire a skill that can then be sold in 20 hours?

Universalists are people like us who are really interested in new things, and we cannot help ourselves until we study everything that is possible ... until we get bored and switch to a new subject.

Being a specialist means discipline, and universal is hard on this type of discipline. But if you want to get top ratings, get the job you want or create another super popular product, you need to become a specialist in one or more industries.

Gary Vaynerchuk recently published an excellent article: Stop asking me how to advertise yourself, and finally start working . Universal has a rational kernel: you need to know a lot of things in order to succeed in this world. But this requires work, and such work requires the combination of a specialist and a universal in one person.
Otherwise, it is face trafficking and lack of skills. Knowledge is an inch and a mile wide.

However, striving to make yourself exclusively a specialist is also not the most reasonable decision. Narrow specialists have to rely too often on other people and take on too much risk, which can change the market.

At the intersection of these two areas, magic happens. If you become both a specialist and a universal, who dares to stand in your way?

And here is the irony: as soon as you become a specialist in any field, the value of your skills as a generalist becomes higher than ever. The knowledge and experience of a specialist opens the door for you. They make you a valuable employee and provide opportunities. Once you grab a chance by the tail, you can fully utilize your wagon skills.

The thing is to choose in which field to become a specialist, and how to accustom yourself to discipline in order to cope with such a task.

You must ask yourself two questions. Instead of asking: “What would I learn next?” ask yourself: “What specialty is interesting and valuable enough for me to become the best in it?”. Then ask yourself where to find enough motivation, and develop habits that will help you achieve your goal.

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