Welcome to my blog. I hope you find my content interesting, perhaps thought provoking and a worthwhile read.
I would like to open with a gambit about my domain name. I chose the specialist/generalist title because I felt it best reflected my life experience and potentially the blog content I aim to produce.
Many articles and advice appear online about the aspects of specialism and generalist in the context of a working environment and career based options. I need to admit that is not the purpose of this blog and I do not think I will be offering much advice on the subject. However, while I introduce myself and reveal a little about me, the topics of specialism and generalist knowledge may well crop up.
By way of introduction, my name is Mike, I am a 50-year-old man who lives in the U.K. I work full time, I run a health care charity in Portsmouth (www.smstherapycentre.org). I study with the Open University and I am reading Politics, Philosophy and Economics (www.open.ac.uk). This is a modern honours degree with a relatively short history that started in the 1980’s. Politics, Philosophy and Economics replaced the degree classification of classics and has become a widely-taught course. You may well recognise it as the qualification that many politicians and business leaders hold in the U.K. It is a very broad degree, most definitely falling into the spectrum of generalist.
I came into university education later in life, I did not start study until I was 47 and I have found the journey of adult education very rewarding and life enhancing. Study has made me think much more deeply about the world around me and the nature of society and the challenges we face in a modern world. It has also enabled me to write, whilst turning out- I nearly typed churning out- 10,000 words a year for each module, I have found that I want to write more articles and pieces for my own satisfaction.
Part of my generalist journey through life has offered my many great opportunities and I am very lucky to be able to volunteer some of my time to help other organisations outside of the charity that I oversee. One of my favourite volunteering roles is with a micro news site that operates to produces content for the city of Portsmouth and its surrounding areas (www.strandcrescent.org). I produce satirical infographics and articles for the site. I do enjoy this greatly and I want to thank my editor, Sarah, for her patience and advice along the way. I aim to import some of the satire published on the star and crescent into this blog soon, once I have worked out how this word press hosted blog page works.
I do have a blog on the Open university as well, I was very surprised when it grew to be the second most visited blog on the website, I have no idea how that happened, but I will try and import some of my relevant content from that site, over to this blog. I would think to thank all my fellow students who have taken the time to read that blog and to comment, especially all the comments, tips and advice that has been shared about essay writing. I very much appreciate the chance to engage with students from a wide range of courses. It is fantastic when you consider that all the students are online learners and we are geographically diverse across the whole of the UK.
Much of the above has a generalist tone and aspect, for balance I should mention some of the specialist (and very probably useless skills) I have gained throughout my working life.
I left school and went to apprentice as a centre lathe turner, this is a specialist skill which was very quickly replaced with computer controlled turning, so my apprenticeship was a short 2 year one, before the nature of the work changed. I left the engineering world quite quickly (although many of the specialist skills I learnt would be useful for the later life and my current job) and went to work as a croupier in a local casino. This came with a great many specialist skills, chip work, card work, learning mah-jong and many other very specific tasks related to gaming. I enjoyed my time in casino’s, I sent 24 years working in them, very much. But all those night shifts take a toll. I was not till my early forties that I realised that I needed a change-how original I hear you cry! Look at all those blogs about career change and transferable skills! There are many blogs that discuss career change, they often discuss the specialist over generalist topics when considering a career change. My own experience leads me to think that although I held many specific skills, working with customers and staff meant I retained a generalist perspective on working life. Perhaps that’s my main point here, like politics, philosophy and most things in life, they exist across a spectrum of activity, there is no correct defined position. Perhaps my somewhat pragmatic outlook on life meant that I learnt a lot of very specific skills along the way, but always kept a generalist perspective of how those skills applied to life.
After leaving casino life I had a brief spell working for a national bank. It was a brief 6 months, I used my specialist skills of money laundering knowledge, accounting procedural knowledge and cash handling experience to support my application. I have regret about that now, no names will be mentioned, but the working environment and values at the bank were not great, that is an understatement, they were awful. I got away as quickly as I could and got a job as the manager of a charity. This charity runs a health centre for people with multiple sclerosis. The job role is amazingly wide ranging. I have learnt the very specialist skill of operating and maintaining a type 2 high dosage oxygen chamber, see I did mention that those engineering skills I had learnt 30 years before would come back into play! I also deal with volunteers, fundraisers and stakeholders of all kinds daily, this most certainly does require generalist skills.
So that is why i consider myself a specialist-generalist, and I hope that as this blog progresses I can bring my skills to bear to provide you, the reader, with interesting and thought provoking content.
If you would like to leave a comment, it would be greatly appreciated, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about any of the topics I have written about, one of the joys of being a generalist is putting knowledge into perspective by sharing in other people’s experience.
Mike Gumbrell- a specialist generalist.