How to Market Yourself as a ‘Specialized Generalist’

Letter TWhile developer communities debate the pros and cons of specialists and generalists, companies like IBM are hiring “specialized generalists, “T-shaped people” who possess one or two technical specialties as well as the interpersonal skills and business knowledge to work across the enterprise.

If you’re a T-shaped person, it’s time to take advantage of the trend by creating a campaign to market your unique blend of skills to eager employers. Here’s how.


Create a personal brand, resume headline and elevator pitch that highlight your technical specialties and business prowess.

For example, maybe you’re a Web application developer with a basic understanding of Java, JQuery and SQL. But your real forte is working with marketing professionals and using AJAX and JavaScript to build websites and pages for SEO/SEM campaigns. Brand yourself as an AJAX craftsperson and SEO expert with the ability to unite five years of marketing experience, problem-solving skills and knowledge of multiple software programs to create cutting edge campaigns.

Job Titles and Descriptions

Job titles like Senior Developer or Junior Web Developer can’t begin to describe diverse expertise. Tantalize reviewers by providing a comprehensive list of your technical and non-technical skills and a brief description of every role and position you’ve had. In fact, consider providing a descriptive job title in parentheses, so reviewers don’t think you’re a one trick pony.

Demonstrate Big Picture Understanding

T-shaped professionals don’t see a single solution to a problem. They see the big picture and can adapt their knowledge and skills to fit each situation. Provide examples of your interdisciplinary work and cross-function-team experience on your resume and during interviews. Describe the problem, the solutions you considered, the decision you made (and why) and the outcomes you achieved. Remember, what separates specialized generalists from one-dimensional candidates is their ability to answer employers “so what” questions.

3 Responses to “How to Market Yourself as a ‘Specialized Generalist’”

  1. I know a lot about a few technical subjects, and a little about many; add to that a client referred to me as a “rare combination of technical ability and soft skills” and I’d say I am a “Specialized Generalist”.

  2. Alvin

    I’m actually liking this idea, given my wide breadth of experience in various disciplines.

    Unfortunately, the problem as I see it is that most employers aren’t looking for “specialized generalists”. They’re looking “specialized specialists” with a deep knowledge in exactly one discipline, sometimes one and a half.

    Oh, and of course also someone who’s a self-starting multi-tasking detail-oriented customer-centric team-player with excellent communication skills who needs minimal supervision.

  3. no one

    Actually, per my direct experience, IBM lays off most of their specialized generalists when they can find a less costly employee elsewhere. You knew that, right?