People often use the terms “Generalist” and “Jack of all trades” interchangeably. It is a common myth that generalists are less superior than their specialist counterparts. Being a generalist,people tend to see you incapable of achieving the “expert” status. As a generalist it is quite easy to be misquoted and misunderstood. However, The perks of being a generalist are far too great to be ignored.
Being a generalist is by no means an easy task. It may sound fun to be able to boast about the various skills that you possess but learning those can be equally tough. A true generalist has his skill set varied over different fields which enables him to create some value out of what he has learnt. Their skill set may make them seem unfocused but in true sense having a working knowledge of everything around you is a must. They tend to see the ‘bigger picture’ and are more likely to know how different things interconnect with each other. They are better suited to adapt in almost every situation imaginable. In today’s world, you need to constantly upgrade yourself to keep up with its pace. Generalists therefore have an upper hand in this matter.
If you are in a workplace, you will realize that many a times you have to fill in the shoes of others. You may have to hold the fort if the need be. This is when the generalist mindset kicks in. They are easy to grow and can potentially be doing multiple tasks while being good at the one thing that they were hired for. Specialists on the other hand cannot be used beyond their area of expertise.
Identifying myself as a generalist too, I have found that it is handy to be fluent in a few fields and at the same time having a dozen other skill sets. The choice between generalists and specialists is mainly opinion driven. It depends on what the situation asks out of people.
When seeking accuracy of predictions, it is better to turn to “those who know many little things, draw from an eclectic array of traditions, and accept ambiguity and contradictions.”- Phillip Tetlock.