The Future of Work Has Good News for Generalists

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Sometimes foundering in your career comes down to the simplest possible cause: not knowing what you want. If you've always been interested in too many things to specialize, the job market may actually be catching up with you. According to experts, the jack of all trades is on the rise.

Jerry Useem, an editor at The Atlantic, joined the crew of a new type of Navy ship to examine this trend. "At Work, Expertise Is Falling Out of Favor" examines a craft that can be staffed by a fraction of a legacy ship's crew. As a broader theme, hiring managers and staffers from a wide range of industries report that it might soon be less economically sound to specialize in a narrow field. "The half-life of skills is getting shorter," IBM's Joanna Daly tells Useem.

Translating into the working world, jobseekers and employees alike might side-eye what sounds suspiciously like bosses ballooning one regular position into three. A well-run business won't go that route. Automation is certainly going to become more and more integrated at work, and freelancers already find themselves building Frankencareers with their odd mix of skills. Moreover, hiring managers are starting to understand that expertise and experience may not tell the full story of a candidate's potential.

Specialists have a deep knowledge of their own fields, and may be just as prepared to apply that in new ways. It's worth getting excited about. Read Useem's full piece for a bigger look at the downs, the ups, and the coming possibilities.