The expert knows more and more about less and less, until he knows everything about nothing.
To be a generalist or an expert has been a great question in my life. Until this day I don´t really know which one is better for me, or if both are. In either case, I know that I will always be able to be an expert if I want to. This is not an age sensitive issue. Only a strong will and determination one.
The question came to be after my college graduation. I choose traditionally feminine studies: Secretary studies. This was I was able to go home every day, as this particular college was near my parent´s house. Back then I was a very young girl, and my emancipation was still very far down in my life path.
The course on Secretary studies was a pretty generalist course that awakened my curiosity to never ending areas of knowledge, like Law, Accounting, International Relations, Economics. The only field of studies I had consistently from the first year to the fourth, were English Studies and French Studies. Being lectured by native teachers this was a true novelty and luxury in my small town.
When I arrived at the working world I noticed I was asked all sort of office tasks, while other co-workers, graduated in more special areas were only asked to do the same work. Often they ended by having more responsibilities than I had. What they knew was not possible to be learned by observation, common sense or practice.
Those who were generalists were valued less. They knew everything and nothing. They were not experts in any area.
Truth is, in the long run, being generalist is also to be flexible, to be quick in adjustments and reasoning. Often we think outside the box. In new and unexpected situation being generalist brings a true added-value, both professionally as personally.
In life, as in our jobs, we must stretch our flexibility muscles and our beliefs.
The best of the situation is that after generalisation we can always choose to become experts in whatever area we wish. As I said before this is not a time or age sensitive issue, that way we can benefit from both perspectives and broaden our horizons.