While on vacation, I thought a lot about specialization and generalization of skills.
The balance between the two is a tough one. On the one hand, people like to learn the latest and greatest — especially technical people as they believe that knowing the latest programming language or the latest technology philosophy is what is needed to be working on the next big thing.
On the other hand, people who know a lot about a lot of different things can be more versatile and work on a variety of projects.
Those hiring for positions, in my limited research, come down on the side of the specialist. Think of all those job requirements that come out requiring a technical person to know twenty different programming languages, ten different documentation structures, and have managed a group of a hundred people for a minimum of ten years. And have great people skills to boot.
You know where I’m coming from.
I like to think of what we do as a “portfolio” of skills. Each of us have worked on different types of projects and developed different, though similar skills working in each of those areas.
But, have we tied them all together into a portfolio?
If a company wants a person who does management of technical projects, can you show your portfolio of working technical projects from working as an individual contributor to a manager in the technical project area?
If a company wants a person who does business development, can you show your portfolio of working a territory or product group, building it over time, and training others to do the work as well?
Over time, the work we do develops themes. These themes — good, bad, or indifferent — become the portfolios we build.
Knowing those portfolios and their themes will help us determine what is needed next in our career, the next thing to work on to round out a particular portfolio we own as part of our personal brand.
What’s in your portfolio?
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