15 Aug 2023

How to unlock new opportunities without changing everything

We dive into: The 4 Archetypes of a Generalist, a framework for squiggly career progression, I'll then spin these into real-world examples of what a *delightful* generalist career flow could look like

And then... a pinch of spice 🌶️ I'll be busting the myth that generalists can't reach mastery

💃 You already know the one. Our trademark generalist move — dancing across different domains, industries and roles. Some call it a chameleon. A shapeshifter. A pivot expert. A do-er. But changing doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch every time.

If you’ve found yourself at a crossroads, itching for the next challenge, but not wanting to be a total noob again, this article is for you (top tip: bookmark it to come back to whenever you need it)

🔓️ Avoid the Generalist Career Overhaul: How to Unlock New Opportunities Without Changing Everything

Alright generalists, show of hands.. 🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏾‍♂️Who’s felt that overwhelming urge to shake things up when you feel stagnant in life or at work?

You know the feeling…..

Generalists reviewing their career roadmap…

Where the idea of selling everything, moving to a different part of the world, and starting fresh can be incredibly tempting. The excitement of new experiences and the thrill of the unknown can make you throw caution to the wind and dive right in. However, it's worth considering whether this pattern of completely overhauling your life is serving you in the long run.

Instead, I want to propose a different mindset—one that allows you to take risks and be creative while keeping some aspects of your career constant.

➕ Role = function + industry + geography + size

Think about your current or desired role as an equation, it consists of various elements: function, industry, geography, and size of the firm.

The most challenging moves involve changing three or more of these elements simultaneously.

For instance, transitioning from being a product manager [function] at a tech firm [industry] in the US [geography] to becoming an HR generalist [function] for a UK government agency [geography, industry], or shifting from being a freelance designer working remotely in Asia to becoming a community manager for a local non-profit in New York.

Why are these moves so challenging?

For starters, you probably don't have a strong network in a field that's unrelated to your current situation, even if you're a Generalist. Your background may not spark interest from recruiters and hiring managers because you lack proven success in your desired arena. Additionally, networking can be difficult when you lack the typical points of connection across different geographies and industries.

None of these are impossible barriers to overcome, but they do make these types of changes difficult.

Focus on changing 1 or 2 elements

So here's my recommendation: focus on changing just one or two elements at a time to avoid the shock to your system that a complete overhaul can bring. These changes are easier to make because you have existing connection points to build off.

For example, if you're interested in switching tracks from being a product manager at a large tech firm in the US to working in HR in the UK, start your search by looking at large tech firms in the UK. Alternatively, you could switch to an HR role within your current firm and consider the geography move after gaining some experience.

There's nothing wrong with making big changes, but by intentionally sequencing the steps toward your end goal, you might find it easier to discover opportunities that propel your career forward.

💡 How to develop new skills while in your current role

Alternatively, you might realize that you don't need to leave your current role at all. Here are ten ways you can continue learning and growing without changing jobs:

  1. If you work at a large company, sign up for extra-curricular activities that are tangential to your role such as recruiting, business resource groups, or mentoring opportunities.

  2. Attend conferences or even consider speaking at one to expand your knowledge and network (see ya later comfort zone!) 👋 

  3. Offer to write a business school case with a local univeristy to gain a deeper understanding of real-world challenges.

  4. Join or start a book club with your colleagues to engage in thoughtful discussions and broaden your perspectives.

  5. Ask to spend a percentage of your time (around 10-20%) doing an "internship" with another team to learn about their function while still maintaining your core job. (Read more: Nic pulled this off well)

  6. Volunteer to take on tasks related to communications, event planning, or facilitating meetings to develop your leadership skills.

  7. Create content (with permission) such as writing articles or creating videos about your area of expertise. This will help build your personal brand while sharpening your thinking and framework.

  8. Offer to build a curated learning guide for your organization. This will give you an opportunity to explore various topics related to your role and expand your knowledge base.

  9. Write your own curriculum. Decide what you want to learn and create a list of online courses, internal training, and external learning opportunities that support your goals. Set milestones and have regular check-ins with your manager to stay accountable.

  10. Seek a mentor or coach who can guide you and provide valuable insights as you navigate your career journey.

Rather than completely overhauling your life and career, intentional changes focused on one or two elements at a time can lead to smoother transitions and better opportunities.

And, if you're content in your current role, you can still keep learning and growing through extracurricular activities, conferences, collaborations, and more.

There are always ways to keep expanding your Generalist skillset!

📚️ Further reading:

About the author:

Kathryn Montbriand spent a decade championing culture change at a Fortune 500 company. She pioneered a first-of-its-kind team of ‘Culturists’ that focused on employee engagement and creating authentic connections in the workplace. She used that same spirit of positive disruption to create Montbriand Services which provides Fractional Chief of Staff support, and Lived and Loved which enables people to access their stories in an innovative way.

See you next week — Milly 👋🏾

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Our content is brought free to you, courtesy of the Generalist World community memberships.