Updated: Jul 10, 2020
Tired of Finding Yourself in the Wrong Jobs?
Finding an awesome job is not about applying to any roles our résumé may support and hoping for the offer. It is about knowing ourselves. Being aware of our introversion and the traits we carry (for many, empathy, creativity, structure, planning, teamsmanship, details...) and those we may lament (social chatter, marketing, public speaking) is critical.
I learned life is too short and work/life balance is more than just the hours you work, but more so about your wellbeing.
At work I found it helpful for me and others I’ve mentored to consider whether we are specialists or generalists. Like most scales, no one is purely one or the other, but share some traits from both yet have strong tendencies toward specialist or generalist.
What are you?
Five common traits
Specialists- tend to stay in one or a few job areas in an organization or industry
Like to be the expert
Like to learn in depth
Like deep rooted relationships within the organization and industry
Generalist- tend to take their skills to a wide variety of roles across an organization
Like to learn a wide range
Comfortable to start over
Comfortable to establish new relationships
It's not a matter of right or wrong. Teams/organizations need both - the specialist with deep knowledge and history and the generalist to bring ideas, knowledge, and ideas across parts of the organization.
In my opinion, people are either generalists or specialists. It's in our DNA.
One might think specialists are more likely to be destine for management positions given their in-depth knowledge, but often generalists are rewarded with leadership roles too given their broad experiences.
Which approach may be more suited to introverts?
I've always been a self-proclaimed generalist. In 30 years at Shell, I developed skills in logistics, operations, and commercial trading which I used in 15 different jobs in 10 different parts of Shell. Whenever I evaluated my career or discussed this specialist/generalist topic with staff or at mentoring circles, I explained that I loved to learn and see different parts of the business. It enabled me to have broad experiences. I was never bored. It was exciting. All true.
However, in retrospect, I believe taking the generalist path was a source of extreme stress for me as an introvert. Every two years or so I had to network to find a new job. I had to establish new relationships in teams, organizations, and within an industry often dominated by specialists who already had deep-rooted knowledge and connections within that industry. So I often had to nudge may way into a "good ole boy network", starting with chitchat before possibly moving on to more substantive and gratifying discussions.
As an introvert that isn't very comfortable with self-promotion, I had to reestablish my credentials and prove myself over and over...over a dozen times in fact. I did it because I needed to, but my stress level was high and I was completely exhausted most evenings, and my coping skills were worth crap - honestly...binging food and alcohol was not the answer. I learned life is too short and work/life balance is more than just the hours you work, but more so about wellbeing - satisfaction & happiness.
Later, as a manager in 5 of the 10 organizations, I struggled early on to realize my role was not to be the expert on the subject matter or product of the team, but to be the expert on leade