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The Laid Off IT Guy! Are You an IT Generalist or a Specialist?

I certainly remember starting my career where being in IT meant you knew everything about computers.  You knew how to build one.  You knew how to program one.  Everyone came to you for advice on everything from writing software to creating a network.  All of your family relied upon you for support.  Okay, that part hasn’t changed!

Technology has evolved substantially over the past 20 years.  Instead of your IT knowledge making you either a programmer, network admin or consultant, today’s IT offerings have been expanded to include managing the phone system, multi-function copiers/fax/printers/scanners, audio visual gear, smart phones, security systems, data centers, virtualization, co-location, and on and on.  It’s now a very high tech world we live in and the “IT Guy” of old was that of a generalist and knew a lot about a lot today has evolved to specialization. 

Very few people that I know that are peers of mine could claim that they do all of this.  Most are specialists.  They just do security or they just manage email servers or they just write programs for smart phones.  With the tremendous influx of technology in our lives in the past 20 years it’s very hard to be a “jack of all trades” type of “IT Guy”.

So how do you decide which area to specialize in?  You are probably influenced by the company that hired you.  You used to be the Network Administrator that managed the entire Infrastructure, but now they need someone to just manage the routers for the WAN.  Do you want to get that specialized; cornered into a niche?  Are you learning a transferable skill that is sought after by other employers, should the need come to make a change?

For many, they like the fact that they are the subject matter expert for what they do, and it gives them comfort for the perceived job security that the company “needs you” because no one else can do what you do.  I may be a bit cynical after losing my job, but loyalty today is a one-way street.  You may find yourself in the unemployment line due to no fault of your own.  Does the skill set you have acquired make you a marketable commodity to future employers? 

I see both sides of this coin.  If you are a specialist and do something that is highly sought after, you may have no problem in connecting with another employer that values your skills in that area.  On the other hand, being too specialized can limit the scope of what you can bring to your next employer.

I’ll explain.  This past week I met a man that is looking for work as an engineer on printed circuit boards.  To me that sounds extremely specialized and very limiting as to the types and quantities of employers that need his specialty.  But then again, his expertise may be highly sought after by the few companies that need that work, and he may be right back to work.

Evaluate your own situation to determine if you are a Generalist or a Specialist and how you would market yourself should you find yourself looking for your next gig.

Let me hear from you.  I, sincerely, hope this is good advice for you that you can put to use right away!  Please share your story with our readers by posting your comments!

Thank you!

The Laid Off IT Guy!

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