What is an expert-generalist?
(1) Draw on that palette of diverse knowledge to recognize patterns and connect the dots across multiple areas and
(2) Drill deep to focus and perfect the thinking.”
Am I an expert-generalist?
I have always had a diverse range of interests - from being involved in every club going at school, plus additional and varied interests outside, to my continued love of learning as an adult. With a BA degree, 2 postgrads, 3/4 of a MicroMasters and many evening and day courses under my belt, in everything from printmaking and photography to mindfulness, nutrition, and whittling. In addition to this, I have a pretty serious book and yarn hoarding habit, to fuel my reading and crochet addictions (we’ll ignore the gin hoarding for now).
You may think that all these interests are separate, other than a few of them loosely being under the ‘design’ or ‘craft’ banners. However, they really do compliment each other, even the interests that are technically hobbies and supposedly nothing to do with my professional life. For example:
- My previous experience as a lecturer has given me so much more confidence in presenting ideas, training others and sharing my skills. Something I now love to do! And also, importantly for my e-learning projects, an understanding of learning objectives, teaching to assessment criteria and writing for a defined audience with a specific (or sometimes unknown) level of prior knowledge.
- My reading hobby broadening my language and appreciation of writing styles, flow, and grammar, whilst increasing my awareness of culture, world events and history.
- The printmaking gave me a new appreciation of layering designs and how to achieve a similar effect digitally in my graphics work.
- My knowledge of mindfulness techniques gave me ideas for some interesting tasks to include when writing a mental health suite.
For those that don’t understand this inquisitive nature, they sometimes cite that it must be due to a lack of direction, a flitting brain or not being able to maintain attention. However, it is far from that. It is about having an inquisitive nature and fascination for so many things and wishing I could do them all. Bizarrely, I can maintain attention in many areas simultaneously, though there needs to be a lot of practical skill in there as the memory card in my brain is reaching full capacity for facts and figures. And why shouldn’t we do this?
The employer’s view
The flow of my career has meant that I have learned a mixture of skills in design, strategy, technology, presentation, soft skills, and general business knowledge. And I am still learning! And more importantly; combining and applying that knowledge.
I have found in the past that some employers can take a dim view on someone with a varied background such as mine, and as a result, I can easily get overlooked for roles (as has happened this week). However, particularly over these last 8 months whilst working in my first contracting role I have been amazed at how much the three areas I work in have overlapped and complemented each other, and how much I have learned. So I have decided to do a diagram looking at how the areas of content, instructional and graphic design are working together to make me a more well-rounded designer.
What are the positives of being an expert-generalist?
And the downsides?
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