Advice I've learnt for generalists like me; I would love to hear yours! πŸ““

Hi Elphas!I identify myself as a generalist and in the startup I function in I get to take on a lot of different roles. But at the same time, I find it hard to explain to others who don't work directly with me what I do and often feel like I don't do myself justice -even though I know that I work hard and am a valuable person in my company. I recently received 2 pieces of advice from a 'networking call' that I thought to share:1) Build lots of meaningful relationships - so that these people can vouch for you. Because as someone who usually doesn't get past the application & interview stages (Not from a target school/had big company internships) in most roles I applied for, it's usually the roles where I "show up" or prove my value that actually get me the job/allow my bosses to see the value I bring and later on they can be my cheerleaders.2) Find simple ways to describe what you do (e.g. simple analogies) - I like to describe myself as 'cement between the cracks'. In a past role a co-worker described me as the 'glue that holds the team together' Find one that resonates with you and people can get a better picture of not just your daily tasks but also how you bring value to your team.Besides these, if you have any other words of wisdom or pieces of advice you would like to share for fellow generalists/operators I would love learn from you!! Happy Holidays everyone! πŸŽ„
Thank you for sharing @SuWernKhor ! I also consider myself a generalist so this was very interesting. Honestly 1) is great for anybody! Despite having a specialisation e.g software engineer, you never know what the world will look like so my take is we should make a point of building relationships especially when we feel the most settled!To add to your points, I'd say embracing a jacks of all trade attitude and learning a little bit about everything in the business. Being in VC, I have found it super useful to understand user acquisition strategy for D2C or optimal ways to structure a funnel for B2B-focus companies. Ultimately having an understanding of a little bit of everything helps me focus on the things I am really excited about.
Thank you to both @SuWernKhor and @iynna . Ever since I change my career path from Neuroscientist to VC I too found myself being a generalist with those same exact feelings. I fully agree with finding your own cheerleaders and am slowly learning to no a bit about everything, it truly makes the work day be more seamless!
Such an interesting career path and great insight!
Hi Iynna! Thank you for sharing :) I do aspire to be a VC one day so I'm hoping the networking skills & being a jack of all trades will be useful to me in the future.
Absolutely! Thank you again for sharing!
Thank you so much for sharing this! Resonates a ton with me. I also love to see the ability to rapidly learn about new spaces and skills as a key asset of generalists. Cross functional work is also easier since we have greater natural empathy and understanding of other roles!
Thanks Jessica! And yessss, empathy is so key!
Thanks for this post @SuWernKhor! What you shared resonates with me. Your thread brought to mind a concept IDEO Chief Executive Tim Brown popularized some time back, the 'T-shaped individual' - this article, which builds on that concept may be helpful for you :)
@WenlinT I work at IDEO and 100% agree that the T-shape is a great aid to describe the breadth and depth of an individual's skills! In past, I used it several times to visualize my generalist's skillset (I literally draw a T in my CV :) ): one vertical that is my core skillset (brand & visual design and strategy), and one long line representing several broad areas of skills I haven't fully mastered, but I still know enough that enables me to work in multidisciplinary teams. (UX, product design, research, business strategy, digital marketing...)
Thank you for sharing Wenlin! I read what you sent and love that the article even gave tips how to develop both the depth & breadth. Will be implementing this more in my professional developmentπŸ˜„
I love this post! Someone posted about jack of all trades - the little included rest of that phrase is "a jack of all trades is a master of none but is often better than a master of one." A few other terms that have helped me and led to useful resources - multipotentialite (cool TED talk on this) and Renaissance soul. Also the role you're describing in the organization sounds like a boundary spanner - someone who sits between teams to allow for coordinating. It's very popular in project-based work like construction and movie sets where teams have to assemble and work together quickly with swift trust. Goooooo generalists! :)
Thank you Mandy! I used to really dislike the "master of none" phrase because of it's negative connotation it brings about but I'm glad I've discovered other ones like "generalists" and "Ts". Yes! Coordination & communication are both key to my work and I think the same is true for other generalists. Thank you for sharing 😊 and I'll check out the two new terms you mentioned!!
Re- #2, my circle likes to use 'oil between the gears in the giant machinery' which is a similar metaphor I believe, but emphasizes the reliance on one another to make it work and therefore the importance of collaboration. Generalists are also often smooth operators so I think oil feels more descriptive than cement or glue (hard/ rigid?).I also like to explain along the line of 'lead transversal taskforce / project group across functions to accomplish X (goals: projects, targets, etc.) without additional headcount / budget." If you manage to pull people together towards the same goals, breaking down siloed departmental walls without asking for additional resource (or maybe minimal resources) make sure this important point is highlighted to business leaders / budget owners.
Love the oil metaphor!!
Thank you for sharing this! Great words of advice! For me, I would say never stop learning and trying. Although not in the startup world anymore (for now), I am embracing a stronger attitude towards trying everything and stepping out of my comfort zone to learn different technologies and business strategies. It also doesn't mean that I need to take everything on as a role, but the willingness to learn is really important for me so far! Also 1) is great, and is something I am constantly remembering to do.
I totally agree, the innate willingness to learn, improve and be curious are so important (and helpful)!
Someone in my twitter feed recently posted about a book on this subject called "Range." This interview with the author give a good summary of it. Maybe "generalists" will be the new "introverts" (ie: a personality type to pay a little more respect towards) in 2021?
Thanks for sharing Jessica! What a double-whammy, because I'm both πŸ˜…
Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve bbeen feeling the same and really appreciate the fact that I’m not alone. I’d like to ask for further advice from other generalists out there what to do when you have to take on a new role. I know I’m not as good as the expert or those with long experience in that role. However, I just have to take it due to the circumstances. How do you speed yourself up so that you’re confident in that role and can do a really good job.