Generalist, Specialist or Opportunist….which one am I?

You may wonder what has an image of 2 birds on a birdfeeder got to do with the title of this post, well yes I agree it may be a little tentative but let me see if I can explain my thought process….

So today I was sat at my desk considering job titles, roles and responsibilities and the necessary skills that fulfil them. What is it that leads us to believe that one person may be a better fit for a role than another? In the acting world people audition for roles, in the business world people interview for roles, so what is the difference between an audition and an interview? Stay with me here….in my opinion they are one and the same, to some degree we all act out the part that we think others want us to be. During an interview the candidate will behave in a certain manner, provide answers that they assume are what the interviewer wants to hear. In an audition you do the same, you play the part in a manner that you believe fits the character, only in an audition it is a little easier to distinguish between the actor and the character. In an interview the lines are more blurred.

Back to the title of this post, the question is during an interview are you seeing the generalist, specialist or opportunist at work and how do you ultimately make a decision? Does the person define the role or does the role define the person that you inevitably choose? Do you go with the individual who has all the skills on paper but who may lack the right personality, the person with the personality that fits the environment but who has less experience, the specialist who knows much about less or the generalist who knows little about much? It’s a tricky question and one that can lead to a bad decision.

My own preference would be to go with the generalist, someone who has a little knowledge about many areas as I believe that these individuals display a talent to absorb and utilise in a broader spectrum, with the ability to diversify and build on their knowledge. Of course it depends upon the role, but there is never a perfect fit and like the birds in the image, one may be the perfect build for birdfeeder,agile and fast, the other a perfect fit for the woodland environment camouflaged and stealthy, but as these 2 demonstrate, a willingness to learn new skills from another and adaptability are the key to success!

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