My sister got a Cricut last year.
If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s a crafting device that allows you to design and custom print. Anyone who has a Cricut will tell you that I am oversimplifying its capabilities, and they’re right.
If you’re friends with someone who has a Cricut, you’ve undoubtedly been subject to the question, “What do you want me to make for you? This thing can do anything!”
When Sam first got the Cricut, she called to tell me that she’s going to start making personalized glittery drink tumblers. This was the 15th great idea she called me about.
Anyone who is friends with a Cricut fanatic knows that you can’t scroll through your Facebook feed without seeing a bobble, wood plank, or piece of cloth that doesn’t have that person’s stamp on it (literally and figuratively).
While I loved her enthusiasm and creativity I had to stop her mid-sentence during this phone call.
“Listen to me. You can’t just slap a decal on anything and everything in sight and expect people to buy it.
Over the last month, I’ve seen you plaster ornaments, toy elves, pieces of wood, and now you’re talking about tumblers. You have to stop.”
“But I love it!” She laughed hysterically.
“I know you do, and that’s great, but understand that you need to make one remarkable product. Slap your stickers on a bunch of things, and then decide which thing you like making the best. Make sure that it’s something that people actually want to buy.”
She pauses. “Oh, good idea.”
“Yeah,” I continued. “You need to make one outstanding thing. Promote it. Generate sales, and then let the word spread about how great you are at making that one thing. People will tell their friends and they will find you.
If you make a million little things that are just ok, you’re not going to build a great side hustle.
No one is going to think of you first when they need something like your product. They’re going to google what they’re looking for, and you’re not going to come up.”
Thinking more about what I’m saying, she says, “I really like these tumblers, so I think I am going to focus on making these awesome.”
“I think that’s smart,” I said. “Specialize in the tumblers and then expand from there.”
She exhales. “That makes sense. Thanks. How much do I owe you for this session?”
“Consider this a free coaching session.”
What is a specialist?
Specialists are people who have deeper knowledge and experience in a given subject or skill set relative to their peers in the same career field.
Sometimes specialists are referred to as SMEs (subject matter experts) in large corporate companies.
These are your go-to people for information, education, and analysis about a given topic that the average person may not understand.
Every company has specialists, even if their title doesn’t say so.
So, why should you be one?
Specialists advance their careers faster
Just like it’s important to specialize in your side hustle offering, it’s important to specialize in your career.
We live in a world where most people think that they can be trained to do any job. That they just need someone to hire them, and then they’ll be able to jump right in and do a great job.
You may think that’s true, but it’s not. You’re a human being, so by nature, you’re flawed in some ways.
As you’re searching for your next position, the single best way for you to accelerate your job search is to specialize in your career field.
This is true for those of you currently at an entry/mid/senior level in your career.
Once you make your way up to the executive/c-suite level, you need to pivot back to being a generalist to advance your career. But that’s a different post for a different day.
So what does an accelerated career path look like?
Well, take for example Marketing.
Here’s a sample Marketing career path from generalist to specialist.
- Earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing (Generalist)
- Digital Marketing Coordinator, Entry-level Position (Specialist)
- Digital Marketing Manager, Mid-level Position (Specialist)
- Digital Marketing Director, Senior-Level Position (Specialist)
Specialists make more money
You will earn a higher base salary if you specialize in your skillset during the acceleration levels of your career (entry-senior).
The reason is that during those years, you’re developing deep expertise in a high-value skill set that good companies will pay top dollar for.
There are far more people in the middle of their career (versus entry-level and executive-level), therefore there are far more jobs to compete for.
You can stand out in the job market and maximize your long-term earning potential by specializing.
Let’s take the same example from above.
I’ve added the average salary for each of the Marketing roles on the specialist career path and added the generalist career path for comparison.
As you can see from the chart above, the difference isn’t huge. This data is based on salaries that individuals submitted to Glassdoor. It’s not perfect, but it does illustrate that people who specialize early on in their careers earn more on average than people who generalize.
You may say that a $3,000 difference in salary isn’t much. But if you break that down, that’s about $200ish more per month. Or, the monthly cost of all the streaming services you’ve racked up.
When you’re advancing your career, every dollar counts.
How to be a specialist in your career field
The first thing you have to do is figure out your strength and weaknesses.
If you’re not sure about where you’re strong and where you’re weak, start learning about yourself by trying a bunch of things and listen to other people’s feedback.
When you get praise for that skill you think everyone else has, write it down.
For example, if you find yourself always getting volunteered to lead a project, that’s likely because you have above-average leadership and organization skills.
Conversely, if no one ever asks you to help design a presentation, well…you know.
Keep track of where you excel by paying attention to what you like to do and what people like for you to do.
You’re not good at everything. No one is. But there are a few things that you do MUCH better than other people.
Those few things are your specialties. If you want to advance in your career, spend your time focusing on getting better at those few things.
The more you perfect a smaller number of skills, the better your chances of being promoted into advanced-level positions.
Having trouble figuring out your specialty? Let me take a look at your resume for you.