Specialist or Generalist

It has often come up in discussions with friends and former co-workers as to what type of job progression is better for career development. Is it better to stay in the one organisation and try different roles or is best to hone one skillset and apply it at various organisations?

The job I had whilst finishing university (and beyond) was the place I wanted to spend the rest of my career in. This was because the organisation of 5000 could offer various opportunities throughout my career without needing to change. The other reason of perhaps equal weighting was that this organisation provided a good working environment and my loyalty to it would reflect my gratitude for having been given the opportunity while I was still an undergraduate student. This notion eventually changed when after two years of service, I decided it was time to move onto a role that matched my profile and aspirations.

Whilst I had at one stage envisaged working there for many years, why did I decide to leave?

This was mainly due to my desire to validate the choice I made at university and to put to use the learnings in my field of study. The best way to achieve this was to pursue the role of business analyst so that I could utilise my strengths and interests to add value to organisations. So in pursuing a specific role, my career has become one where I will work for various organisations but always inside a defined role and skills set. My former colleagues on the other hand stayed on at the organisation however, they’ve since tried their hand at various roles. We are all happy with our decisions and realise there is no way to really conclude what is the best path for career development.

On the one hand, staying inside one organisations allows for the trajectory to senior management to be attainable faster. There are several advantages such as cultivating constructive relationships both within and outside of one’s section which allows for lateral movements and even promotions when the opportunity arises. Staying in the one organisation also allows you to develop a deeper understanding of the organisation’s subject matter as well as culture. Thirdly, persisting at one organisation provides a level of assurance to the employer that you are likely to stay around and add value.

In my experience, working at various places has forced me to prove my skills and worth to all employers at each role. Building rapport with stakeholders is a constant requirement and I think over time, I’ve been able to extend my natural tendency of being an introvert to a learned extrovert. Whilst I haven’t been exposed to work other than business analysis, it has allowed me to further hone my skills in this role and achieve depth in skills rather than depth in one business context.

So in the end, was it worth it?

I think it’s too early to tell but I relish knowing that I’m more confident in my adaptability and the skills I’ve developed so that I can continue to adapt to new environments or stay at one place for a while if the circumstances are favourable. Having said that the BA path is one of constant learning to the extent that it can never be mastered.