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Should You Be A Generalist Or A Specialist?

When I decided to specialize in a different direction, I got a generic Bachelor's degree. And that job led to my current educational position requiring my (specific) Master's degree. I mention that my Master's degree was specific to my current position because it's essentially worthless to almost all other jobs.

As I analyzed my experience, I found it interesting that specializing the first time did cause me to earn more money. While I don't directly earn more money from my current day job, it led to a side gig that's helping me pay for our DIY projects. Without the experience and degrees, the side gig opportunity would never have presented itself. So, even in job #2, specializing paid off for me.

Is my situation unique or not? Let's go deeper…

Why specializing might be worth it

After years of observing students, I think Woody Allen is right: 80% of success is showing up.

In my day job, I'm the program director of a selective admissions program, meaning we only have a certain number of spots…and a lot of applicants.

Many students call or pick up an application. Fewer actually fill out the application and turn it in. Still fewer prospective students turn in the required paperwork. By the time we get to the last step, we have an applicant pool of about 5 percent of the original number. Although not everyone gets into the program, I can say that no one gets into the program without “showing up.”

Are there parallels to specializing here? Perhaps specialists deserve to get paid more because they are persistent in accomplishing which specialization they want. It doesn't mean they work harder necessarily. In fact, one of my lowest-paying jobs required the most physical effort.

Even after researching this article, I don't know what is really true. What I've read seems to indicate that people who specialize make more money. And my anecdotal experience supports my theory.

Maybe my theory has holes. But here's one thing I do know: As you specialize, fewer and fewer people are vying for fewer and fewer jobs - because not everyone, sometimes for valid reasons, wants to get the degree/get the experience/take the test/or whatever that will allow them to specialize.

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