Even though you have never heard of a general practitioner and specialist, it is likely that you have already encountered this difference in your daily life. After all, professionals of both types are everywhere.
Anyone looking for a job or career promotion has already noticed that the job market is always raising the bar. In view of this, more and more people are looking to acquire new knowledge, standing out among the others when competing for a position or a better position in the company.
In this scenario, it is natural to face a dilemma: is it better to specialize in a specific topic or to become a general practitioner, who knows a little about everything?
To make this decision consciously, the ideal is to know the two profiles, with all their advantages and disadvantages. So, keep following this article and ask your questions!
What is a general practitioner?
The general practitioner is one who knows a little about everything, that is, about each area that a company may have. He is a kind of “handyman”, having knowledge in the area of Finance, Commercial, Marketing, Informatics, among others.
Professionals of this type have usually had several experiences in the labor market, so that they have acquired diversified skills. In the same company, for example, he can perform functions in several departments, always with satisfactory results.
This results in a more complete view of the business, since it manages to understand the relationship between the different areas of the company, which is essential for its proper functioning. Thus, they end up in management positions, as they know a range of processes and can accumulate a large number of responsibilities.
What about the specialist professional?
The specialist professional is one who acquires ever greater knowledge within a specific area. Unlike the generalist, the expert is someone who knows just about everything on a single subject.
In some areas that demand high knowledge on a topic, such as the area of Health or Information Technology, specialists usually have more space. For example, surgeries can only be performed by doctors specializing in this activity, so that positions with this assignment are directed exclusively to these professionals.
In other areas, the specialist professional may also be required to consult or solve problems that require more in-depth knowledge. There is also the possibility of transmitting this knowledge through classes and training.
How do you know if you have the most generalist or specialist profile?
When entering a college, it is common for students to believe that their professional future has finally been decided. However, the reality is not quite like that. The choice of higher education is only the first of several decisive decisions in this new phase of life.
It doesn’t take many semesters in college to notice that the chosen course offers a range of possibilities. Among the different areas of activity of each profession, the student also usually realizes that he can choose to be a general practitioner or an expert.
However, this is not a decision that must be taken in haste. You have to give yourself time to find out what your profile is and where it fits best. In this sense, professional experiences – which can start during graduation, with internships – help to understand the job market, develop skills and define this profile.
It is also important to understand that training – and, consequently, career – can follow a vertical or horizontal trajectory. In horizontal training, you acquire varied knowledge and skills. In vertical training, on the other hand, you focus on a specific aspect of an area and seek to get deeper into it.
Horizontal training is the most suitable for general practitioners, while vertical training is indispensable for those who prefer to become specialists. Having this understanding is important for you to know how to direct your studies to achieve your goals.
What is the best profile for each moment of your career?
The beginning of professional life is a challenging period for the recent graduate. In this phase, he relies only on the knowledge acquired during graduation, that is, a little bit of everything related to that profession. For this reason, the profile of the general practitioner perfectly matches this moment in the career.
Over time, however, the professional may be interested in a specific aspect of the profession and seek specializations in this field. Therefore, it is common for people with many years of experience in an area to be specialist professionals.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each profile?
Both options have advantages and disadvantages, depending on the scenario in which the professional is. Next, you will better understand how this works.
Advantages of the general practitioner
In 2015, a study conducted by the North American universities Columbia Business School and Tulane University found that people with a generalist profile find more space within their careers and better conditions in the job market.
According to the study, one of the reasons that justify the fact that generalists are preferred by supervisors is that these professionals usually have a more holistic and systemic view of business. Thanks to these same characteristics, the tendency is for them to assume leadership positions more quickly, since these positions require both management skills and technical knowledge on the subject.
Another advantage that the market offers to generalist individuals is the transfer of employees between sectors of the same organization. If the professional is able to solve internal demands in different areas, he will be more prepared to work in various departments of the company. In the eyes of the business, he will be considered a highly useful professional, which makes him more competitive.
Disadvantages of the general practitioner
In some areas, such as Web Design, for example, it is practically impossible to know a little bit of everything, since the complexity of knowledge is very wide. Furthermore, being a generalist does not mean giving up specific knowledge. Therefore, it is necessary to continue looking for qualifications.
Advantages of the specialist professional
In several sectors, there is a perception that specialists are more dedicated professionals and that they sought more knowledge within their performance. In addition, as mentioned, there are sectors that require specific skills to perform certain jobs. In such cases, the specialist can take advantage.
Another benefit of becoming a specialist is personal satisfaction. For people who have very characteristic interests and tastes, specializing opens up the possibility of being more creative and working full-time on a subject that you love.
Disadvantages of the specialist professional
Ironically, the specialist can become a “ commodity ”, that is, more of the same. This is because almost everyone who wants to specialize in an area ends up taking the same types of courses and acquiring the same skills.
Therefore, it is necessary to seek differentials, even within very specific areas. Apparently, specialists who have diverse life and career experiences are more valued.
Are there any other benefits of becoming a general practitioner?
It is evident that there is nothing wrong with specialization within the career. What should be noted is that, in certain circumstances, being a generalist provides many advantages, especially for group projects involving several professionals. See some examples of these benefits now.
Generalists tend to have more opportunities to explore new techniques, developments and technologies. If you constantly strive to learn about different subjects and to face new challenges, then the variety of knowledge available on the internet, for example, can serve you very well.
Leadership of a small team
Teams made up of few people in large organizations – production companies and agencies, for example – need generalists. These teams require all members to do what needs to be done, which inevitably requires you to be multitasking and to be able to highlight leadership skills.
Working on your own usually requires that the professional be the stick for every job. In these cases, most customers need you to help them on different fronts, which can involve everything from project planning to its complete execution.
Research and development
In larger agencies and organizations, someone needs to keep an eye on emerging technologies. Even though professional experts do this within their niches, trends inevitably emerge over time. The generalist is responsible for identifying these new market opportunities and assessing when the company should invest in them.
Management of the business itself
When you run your own business, being a generalist allows you to stay informed on a variety of topics and then sell them to customers. In addition, it also helps to understand how people involved with the company behave and to make sure that tasks and activities work well together.
As we have seen, therefore, the generalist profile has been highly valued by the market. This is a professional who seeks to learn quickly and adapt to different demands, while always seeking new knowledge.
On the other hand, specialists remain very important in functions and areas that require very specific skills. However, even teams of specialists need a general practitioner to manage the team and coordinate the integration of colleagues.