It’s a funny thing really. Most career advice will tell you to specialise. Get better at one thing. Become the best at that thing. And for the last 20 years of my career I was kinda doing that. But it all changed a few years back…
For various reasons my wife and I started working on our own businesses. One of them is a site about getting organized for example. Personal development. Goal setting. All that. I really like it actually, but not because I’m an expert on personal organization (although Michele is). Instead I do all the technology stuff. Web development, hosting, CSS, email marketing, SEO, analytics, AdWords, membership programs, online stores and a ton of other things.
But here’s the thing – I’ve now become a generalist. I’m good at them, although not especially awesome at any one in particular…
So, what should I do? Most people are telling me to out-source and just specialise at the few things that I excel at. That’s good advice I guess… but what if I don’t want to? What if I’m happy being a generalist for the time being.
One thing I’ve realised, is that in the technology fields you often don’t need to be awesome or specialised in a particular area in order to be highly useful. For example, think about your own areas of interest. If you were to dedicate yourself to a particular new technology for an intensive 6 months, you’d probably be better at it than 99% of your colleagues (even though you wouldn’t call yourself an expert necessarily) and highly useful.
In the areas I’ve been covering in our businesses, I’ve been amazed at how much can be achieved by briefly but deeply studying a particular area. Take Google Analytics as an example. Most people know what it is and what it does, but spend 2 to 3 months deeply learning how to understand and utilise analytics and your business will be vastly different. In some ways, it’s a form of the 80/20 rule. Make a few changes to your approach (that’s the 20%), and receive big benefits. So, whilst I don’t consider myself an expert in analytics (I’m certainly not awesome at it), I’m amazed at how much difference it has made just being able to know it in a little depth (which is what I mean when I say I’m good at it).
And so it is with all of the areas I’ve been focussing on in last year, so much so that I started getting approached by people to help them with their businesses (see my Services page or my XEN business site for more).
The main point though is that I’m having the time of my life at the moment. Sure, Michele and I work hard. But we work when we want. And we work on what we want. It’s a wonderful freedom. And as you can imagine it’s also a time of intense learning. I’ve learnt more this year than in the last five combined. Life is good.
So that’s me. For now. The beautiful thing about my current situation is that as technology changes I’m able to change my focus and pursue another new area of learning. There’s so much to learn these days…
I’m based in Sydney, Australia. Feel free to contact me.
Or join me at the Sydney Business & Technology User Group – it’s on the last Wednesday night of every month. I help run the group along with a bunch of awesome community folk including Nick Rayner, Jodie Miners, Kathy Hughes and Ewen Wallace.