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Finally, in the last post in the 'marketing agencies and me' series, this time it's focusing on all the important question - is it better to be a marketing specialist or a generalist?

A Jack of all trades

First and foremost I am a generalist. Email, social, content, website management, PPC and so on; I've done them all. I certainly have a few core strengths that stand out above others, but I am in no way a specialist in just one of those fields. I guess the closest thing I am is to the T-shaped Marketer which Rand Fishkin from Moz discusses in his blog here.

This seems to have become a bit of a problem though when it comes to applying for agency roles. Why? Because agencies can afford to higher specialists. Instead of having 10 staff that can do everything an agency can afford to bring in people who are at the top of the specialism. Unfortunately for me, they're the roles which I just don't fit into.

On the occasions that I have had interviews where my skills have been enough to potentially fill a specific role, the question comes back to me; do I want to jettison all my other skills for this? Will my knowledge of email marketing ever be used in a technical SEO role? Not likely. And so for any specialist job I'd have to say goodbye to so many different skills I've picked up over the last 4 years making a specialist agency role less appealing. Plus, it's a fast moving game. If I was to pick up those skills in 2-3 years time they would be next to useless as the world of digital moves rapidly onwards.

So, that's why an agency role doesn't seem like it would be right for me...but you know what? I'm ok with that.

I like being a generalist because you can spot the patterns. I like having the variety of using different tools, learning varied skills, meeting new people. All in all I like seeing the big picture and being at the centre of things; so a generalist is where I shall remain.

It also allows for longer term flexibility. As the online world continues to evolve at an almost alarming rate, choosing a specialism that exists now means you're in a role which may have a very short shelf life. (There's a great article here about anyone considering a career in social media for example). Although you can evolve, I'd rather have the ability to move with the times naturally, rather being forced to keep up with current trends in order to still have a job.

But where to go from here? 

There are three potential paths. I could carry on freelancing in a different location. Or I could work as a marketing manager in a client side role. Or oddly looking through the job boards there are often agencies which need a marketing manager to manage the agencies marketing. So I may be able to work in an agency after all...

We shall see and I'll keep you posted.

I would love to know what other marketing folk think of this. Specialist or generalist - which do you prefer?


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