Career Advice – Five Ways To Express A Generalist Background As A Subject Matter Expert

Feb 9 2011 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

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The days of candidates successfully selling themselves as generalists are over. This presents challenges for candidates who view themselves as generalists – how to highlight the Subject Matter Expertise also in their background. Today’s career advice centers helps candidates navigate how to redefine themselves as subject matter experts to increase job market success.

Even a mom & pop retail store manager is likely to be hired first as a subject matter expert and secondarily for general skills. Why? It’s too difficult to choose between generalists because they make themselves indistinguishable – generalist skills look alike on paper, while subject matter expertise stands out.

Additionally, using a generalist resume typically increases ageism by hiring managers who look for hands-on skills in addition to management skills.

But this really goes beyond your resume to affect your entire job search. Your self-definition affects everything from the jobs you apply for, the companies you target all the way through how you present yourself to prospective employers.

Today’s career advice is a listing of 5 ways to express a generalist background as a subject matter expert:

  1. Get over it: The first step is recognition. Many generalist candidates feel proud to describe themselves this way bssed on the cumulative effect of years of experience. Throughout their career they’ve been told that generalist skills are desired. While these skills are desired in the workplace, generalist skills are rarely the primary reason a candidate is chosen for interview and hire. See “Career Advice – Why Do Employers Hire Specialists for Generalist Jobs?“ for more details.
  2. What do you do better than anyone else? Focus on what you do better than anyone else, rather than on all the things you could do. I could probably figure out rocket science, but would you want to be my test pilot?
  3. Coordinate key skills with target company key problems: If your target company’s priority problem is cutting costs, why would you highlight your ability to increase sales? Yet that’s what most candidates do when they send a standards (or merely tweaked) resume. Instead show your cost cutting accomplishments. If you highlight sales (because you’re proud of these skills), you’re solving someone elses’ problems, and make it unlikely that your target will see you as a fit.
  4. Choose just a couple of hats: If you describe yourself as a generalist, you probably view your career as wearing many hats. Choose just a couple of these hats to highlight on your resume. Include the rest of your hats in your skills inventory at the end of your resume (see: “Resume Ideas – Add A Skills Inventory To Get Noticed For More Jobs”
  5. Change your view of what SME means: Your subject matter expertise doesn’t have to be quite as specific as the SME of a staff level employee. Instead, your subject matter expertise can be your industry, your product, your customer segment, a specific function, accomplishment, skill, technology, or income effect.

How will you change your generalist approach to instead highlight your subject matter expertise?


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