From Generalist to Specialist? My experience

My entire career I had been a HR generalist and the thought of specializing to one specific area never crossed my mind as I loved the entire HR scope. Secondly I never gathered the courage to apply for specialized roles as I thought I didn’t have what it took as I would also be competing with candidates who had specialized for longer periods of time.

This changed when I entered the consultancy field and I quickly learnt that being a Generalist was actually working against me. Portraying myself as a Generalist able to handle all areas of HR put me at a disadvantage against other professionals who had specialized as most proposals required depth in a specific area.

It is at that moment I decided that it was time I ran with a specific HR area and I share the steps I took in my shift from a Generalist to a Specialist:


  1. Experience Inventory: This is the stage where I sat down and made a list of all the areas I had covered in your career thus far. The goal is to have an inventory of all of your past and or current areas of focus. Of interest is that I found I had actually not being involved in as my areas as I thought and my career revolved around some key areas such as Recruitment, HR Systems, Compliance and Performance Management.
  2. Assess: At this stage I ranked all the key areas in terms of the area with the most achievements and time spent. For me those areas were; Recruitment, HR Systems, Performance Management, HR Administration in that order. This is a stage of brutal honesty and you might need a mentor or coworker to help you if you are facing any difficulty.
  3. DecideThis is where I had to make a choice on the area that I would know focus on, grow and start branding myself as an expert in. I would advice that you take either the first or the second area from the ranking exercise. These are the areas that you have the most experience and achievements in. Its take courage letting go of the other areas you held dear and deciding to focus on one.
  4. Alignment and way forward: This is where I had to revamp my CV to align to the area I had selected in my case Recruitment and ensure that each past experience highlighted my experience and achievements in that area. I revamped my LinkedIn profile to reflect my new specialty and started talking more about that area. If you need help in revamping your CV and LinkedIn profiles please do but get a trusted consultant. At this stage you now get back to the job market and start applying for those specialized roles that you were once afraid of.


This steps worked for me and I trust you find them useful if you are considering shifting from a Generalist to a Specialist.

What other steps have worked for you if have made the shift?

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