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 leadership - how to motivate each individual team member to get the most out of the whole team. I finally learned to rely on the expertise of many of the specialists within my group. After I finally overcame this obstacle, the winds seemingly changed late in my career and two of my managers expected me personally to know the detailed mechanics and history of the business.
"I'm the generalist", I petitioned! "I'm not the detail guy!" I argued that I had specialists with in-depth knowledge on my team. This didn't sit well at that point. I was confused and STRESSED OUT!
I didn't really have a full grasp of introversion for most of my career. Yes, I knew the definition. I knew I was one. But I didn't know what that meant and didn't connect with my strengths and preferences until much later. Now, I realize I probably would have been much happier as the specialist - stable, detailed, expert with deep-rooted relationships. I used to tell my staff that, in my opinion, people are either generalists or specialists. It's in their DNA. I still believe that, I just think I may have taken the wrong path. Discover who you are and use that to guide your career path.
Wherever you are in your career, I encourage you to take a step back and think about what motivates you. Find that job that best fits these characteristics.
Now, I must pause to say I generally enjoyed my 30 years at Shell. I learned a lot, met some amazing people, traveled the world, was paid well, and was able to save enough to retire at 52. So what's not to like about that path?
But perhaps there was an equally rewarding path that didn't require the stress of networking and socializing, feeling of incompetence, and the need to "start over" every two years which I endured.
Wherever you are in your career, I encourage you to take a step back and think about what motivates you, what you truly love or crave as a person, and then find that job which best fits these characteristics. These jobs are out there. And it will be well worth the journey.
NEXT WEEK- Happy & Healthy: "It's the Climb!"
December 12th is National Ding-a-Ling Day! Really!!!
December 12th is National Ding-a-Ling Day. It's a recognized national day with two origins. In 1972 it was started by Frank Hyle to encourage people to pick up the phone ("ding-a-ling" sound from back in the day) and reconnect with lost loved ones. Since then, it has also picked up the intention to let loose and just be a little weird or crazy for a day. Start it off with playing Chuck Berry’s only number one Billboard hit, the 1972 version of "My Ding-a-Ling!"
While I like the original purpose, we can all use a day to let loose a bit. So have fun on the 12th with your Ding-a-Lings!
By Martin / CLEVERISM
After writing my blog above, I discovered this article. It does a nice job providing pros/cons of generalists and specialists and considering each in selecting a career path. It's good accompaniment to the introvert's perspective in our blog.
The most poignant line, perhaps, is:
When deciding between generalist and specialist career paths, you need to carefully consider the type of person you are. What are you looking for from your career?
Dive in to help explore the topic and your own path further.
CLIMBING KILIMANJARO - The RE-Search Goes On (11/20/2019)
ASPECTS IN ART: INTO THE WOODS (12/04/2019)
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