In Titled: In Defense of Being a Specialized Generalist

July 30, 2020
We rarely think about our work species until we have to explain it or attempt to change it. That’s why I’m here to launch the official campaign for being a Specialized Generalist.

There’s a thing those of us with digital savvy can do with our online content to make it more likely Google will pay attention to us. It’s called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, and it’s a huge rabbit hole of rules and advice that ultimately end with you coming out on top of the Search Engine Results Page.

One of the tenets of SEO has to do with word choice and phraseology. To be good at SEO means being good at understanding how people search for things online. You also have to be good at technology, good at language, good at understanding search metrics and related website analytics. Maybe I was a search savant in another life, but SEO comes easy to me.

What doesn’t come easy to me is trying to settle on what words to call myself as it relates to Food Processing. I seem to be one of the few people on our Food Processing team who has as many designations as I do letters in my name.

Let me put you in touch with our Podcast Host, Erin Hallstrom
Let me put you in touch with our Digital Editor, Erin Hallstrom
Let me put you in touch with our Food Audience Expert, Erin Hallstrom
Let me put you in touch with our Social Media Expert, Erin Hallstrom
Let me put you in touch with our SEO Expert, Erin Hallstrom
Let me put you in touch with our Analytics Expert, Erin Hallstrom
Let me put you in touch with our Trivia Expert, Erin Hallstrom

My official title is Director of Digital Strategy. It’s a perfectly lovely title. It makes me sound very important and very much like a Digital Generalist, the latter of which I am.

But I’m also a specialist. The list from above is a sliver of the things I’ve become an expert on the last 20+ years. I’m something of a Digital Swiss Army Knife. I’m knowledge-hungry about a lot of things. It’s not enough for me to know how to use a certain tool or learn a new skill, I want to know how I can get certified in it so that I, too, can be an official expert in it. (And yes, I was, in fact, a teacher’s pet who asked for extra credit homework in school thankyouverymuch).

I know I’m not the only person who this happens to. I’m willing to bet of all the people reading this blog post right now, that the majority of you would consider yourself specialized generalists, or fellow Swiss Army Knives of your field. Maybe you’re a marketing generalist, but you privately wish you were the company go-to known as the Marvelous Ms. Finance Lady. Or maybe you’re a plant floor operator who has every machine memorized all the way down to the smell, but really specialize in people and knowing how to connect with every co-worker you meet. I know a lot of Human Resource generalists that are amazing at marketing too.

Whaddya say we try to make Specialized Generalists more of a thing? Let’s normalize that you can be both a T and an I person. Let’s shine a light on the people who are Jacks and Jills of many trades and whom perfectly capable of a 30,000-foot and a 2-foot view.

Who’s with me?