3 things to consider when specialising
In life there is the tendency to try to do more to give yourself a greater chance of success. Conventional wisdom states that if you have more varied skills, more certifications, more exposure to different technologies you’ll increase your chances of landing that dream job. The reality doesn’t usually follow that formula. There are a few reasons why concentrating your efforts can provide you a better result than spreading yourself thin.
The next step from generalist is a specialist
You may spend the first part of your career as a generalist. You’ll hit a point where if you want to increase your demand you will need to specialise. There are lots of people with a surface knowledge of most technologies. There aren’t that many that have deep and extensive knowledge in a technology. When you become one of the few, you can demand better compensation and you’re more in demand. You need to make sure you choose wisely to avoid being specialist in a field that is obsolete.
You get to focus on what you enjoy
Some people will select an area they feel is in demand and can command high salaries. Infosec is currently one of those areas (see link). Others will select areas that they enjoy working in. A real interest in a technology makes it easier for you to master. You are happier studying and building labs in your spare time. Without some real motivation it’s difficult to put in the effort required to master a technology well enough to be considered a specialist. I would argue there are few things in life that beat being paid for something that you’d happily do in your spare time.
You can accidentally become a specialist
If you don’t choose an area to specialise in, you can accidentally end up in one. A few years back, I took on a project to roll out McAfee EPO to a client and configure all end points. In my next role I was brought in to work on a few things, it turned out one of those was a rollout of McAfee. They thought I’d be great for that while working other things. I got a lot of offers for roles involving McAfee after that and if I did not have a strong preference, I might have ended up moving from one McAfee-heavy roll to another. One day I’d wake up and my experience would make me a McAfee/AV specialist and it would be harder to move out of that pigeonhole.
There’s truth in the saying that after a point, you either specialise or go into management (a whole different can of worms). You can decide to do neither but that is also a choice. You became a generalist. A different kind of specialisation. You’re more likely to succeed in getting somewhere if you know where you’re going. There’s nothing wrong with going with the flow. Early in your career it’s a smart move. Later, you should decide what you want to do and put an effort into achieving that goal. You can also decide to see where fate takes you. Just know that whatever you do is a decision. You might find yourself regretting the decision based on where you end up.
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