When it comes to specializing in specific technologies in the field of IT, I will say up front that there is no right or wrong career move that is applicable to everyone.
However, there is a right or wrong answer for you. It all comes down to the path you see your career heading in the future, and your preferred work style. For some people, the decision comes easily. Some professionals have a great interest in one area of IT, making the move to specialization in this area an easy one.
On the other hand, it might be harder to tell if you’re naturally a generalist. Characteristics such as being a natural multi-tasker and enjoying the challenge of always learning new skill sets might guide you in the direction of being a generalist, but these feelings can also get confusing when you feel unsure that you have enough information to make a decision either way.
To help with this confusion, we’ll flesh out some of the pros and cons of each path.
The obvious benefit of specialization is that when people need your skills, you are automatically in high demand, as there are fewer people out there who have your specific skill set. This allows you the authority to demand a higher salary, and could even earn you a little more flexibility in your job. In addition, you automatically eliminate yourself from the trouble of being the IT dumping ground for any problem others can’t figure out, as you have a specific skill set, and it will be known that (for the most part) you will only work on projects within this area.
On the down side, it must be considered that your specialty could one day become out-dated, causing you to go on the hunt for another area to master. There are some exceptions to this rule, but in the ever-changing world of IT, the exceptions of today could become the rule of tomorrow. Also, having a narrowed skill set will put you out of the running for jobs which require lower-level mastery of several different skills, and might make you a less-worthy candidate for start-up companies who might only want to hire one person to do all things IT-related. But if you’re interested in a specific area, enjoy learning all there is to know about a certain subject, willing to deal with these consequences and think you’re geared more towards a job in consulting or a similar career path, specialization is the choice for you.
As stated above, if you enjoy multi-tasking and having your hands in many projects at one time, generalization in the field of IT might be a good decision. Another benefit is that you will be very valuable to any company looking to keep only a few people on board who can then handle almost all IT requests. As a result, you will most likely be able apply for a broader range of job opportunities.
The downside is that, unless you are more skilled or quicker than the person next to you, you are no less disposable than they, as you won’t have the hard skills to justify your worth. That being said, you could also compensate for this with a number of talents—responsiveness, professionalism and efficiency being just a few. Generalists do very well in a corporate or start-up environment, so if you enjoy having all the answers and fast-paced work, this is your answer.
Either way you go, it’s never too late to turn back around. It will just be a matter of jumping back into the learning process. In fact, most professionals would agree that it’s always a good idea to stay on top of new and changing technologies regardless of where you think your career is going, so if you keep your head in the game, you might just wind up with more options than you thought possible.