Interview with a PhD Student

For the academic generalist. “Celebrate the little win(e)s”, JollyGens!

The great part of being a generalist is learning about what others find interesting. And what better type of person to speak to, who loves learning and is an expert in their field, than the Ph.D. student. We interviewed a Health Sciences student to tell us a bit about how they got into and became a specialist in their area of study.

1. What lead you to want to do your Ph.D.?

After graduating undergrad and doing research for a year I realized that I still had a lot of questions about my area of research. In order to explore those questions deeper, I decided to do my Masters and then pursue my Ph.D.

2. What did you do your undergrad and Masters in?

I completed my undergrad in Health Sciences and my Masters in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

3. Did you enjoy your Masters more than your undergrad?

I was more interested in what I was learning in my Masters because my undergrad was quite broad so I had to take courses that I wasn’t particularly interested in. My Masters, on the other hand, focused more specifically on my areas of interest.

4. Did you know you wanted to do your Ph.D. before started your Masters?

No, I decided to pursue my Ph.D. while completing my Masters.

5. What are you doing your Ph.D. in?

Speech Language Pathology.

5. How many years is your Ph.D. and how far along are you?

It is a five-year program and I’m about two years in.

5. Did the number of years of schooling ever intimidate you?

Yes. I still find it sometimes intimidating but for different reasons.

6. How so?

Now that I’ve begun exploring my subject, I no longer worry about how many years I still have to go. Instead, I have a hard time figuring out how to fit everything I want and need to do into the next three years.

7. How do you plan to use your Ph.D. after graduation?

I would like to do clinical research in my field. A lot of school boards are now starting to hire researchers since there is interest in initiating new programs that are more helpful for students. I’d like to be a part of creating and implementing programs that work.

8. Any words of advice for other students looking to pursue their Ph.D.?

It takes a lot of commitment but is really satisfying to study something that you love every day. Create a support network with other people in academia that understand what you are going through because it is very different from the working world.

9. Do you need to be passionate about what you study?

Yes. It would be hard to commit to something that requires so much time and energy if you weren’t passionate about it.

10. Any last words?

Celebrate the little wins… and find a good wine!

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Generalist vs. Specialist: Better together.

For the focused generalist. Learn what it means to be a Specializing-generalist, JollyGens!

Like peanut butter and jelly or Batman and Robbin, some things are just better together. This concept becomes more evident as it is applied to generalists and specialists. Yes, both generalists and specialists have their advantages, and yes, it takes a great deal of effort to develop knowledge and skill in both categories, but when it comes to securing a safe and stable career these two concepts in combination are better together.

T_shaped

3 Advantages/Disadvantages of Being a Generalist
Advantages
  1. Work well in teams – collaborative in nature, especially with other generalists
  2. Broad knowledge base and wide-range experience to help produce a variety of solutions
  3. Ability to relate and understand the perspective of others
Disadvantages
  1. Higher supply and less demand – many businesses are looking for experts in specific capacities, therefore, it can be harder to get hired
  2. Structure and discipline toward one subject may be difficult for generalists
  3. May lack the right knowledge or experience to overcome specific challenges
3 Advantages/Disadvantages of Being a Specialist
Advantages
  1. Experts in a particular field making them desirable if their expertise are required
  2. Can be hired on a freelance or contract basis
  3. Higher demand and less supply – niche applications require specialists in unique areas which can be harder to find
Disadvantages
  1. Rely on others in areas outside of their expertise
  2. Heavily reliant on the needs of the market and are at risk of being replaced if new technologies are introduced or changes occur in their industry
  3. Can be challenging to understand the bigger picture
The sweet spot

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Lev Kaye, Founder and CEO at CredSpark, notes in his article Generalists vs. Specialists: Who Owns The Future? that there are two types of people that will own the future:

  1. Generalizing-specialists
  2. Specializing-generalist
Generalizing-specialists

Someone who is inherently a specialist but realizes to avoid being replaced or pigeonholed into their specialty they must grow and learn on a broader level.

Specializing-generalist

Someone who is inherently a generalist but knows that in order to provide further value they must acquire proficiency in a certain set of skills.

Both of these types of people understand that in order to progress and grow in their careers they must not categorize themselves into one basket or the other. Rather they need to expand their knowledge and skills both horizontally on a broader spectrum, as well as vertically toward deeper understanding.

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