How Specializing Can Help You Make More Money
In order to better understand what specialization (the division of labor) is and how it affects both physical and knowledge work, let’s dive first into the organization of work before the industrial revolution.
History of Specialization
It is believed that the first division of labor happened before the agricultural revolution when different tribes still relied on hunting and gathering as a means of survival. The labor was then divided among men and women.
Later, with the advent of the first permanent settlements (made possible by growing crops instead of gathering plants), the division of labor became more complex. It became the age of tool makers.
From those early tool makers, we advanced to the craftsmen of the late medieval period. Their work will become the basis for the division of labor in the industrial era.
Benefits of Specialization for Society
Adam Smith in his The Wealth of Nations gave an example of pin production in order to illustrate how the division of labor worked in the industrial age.
In this example, a pin is either produced by a single pin maker or by a team of workers. Either way, the work of producing a pin is specialized. The difference is in the level of specialization.
Craftsmen are specialized for producing a single item, such as a pin. Industrial workers, on the other hand, are specialized for doing a single task, such as packaging a pin.
The latter model of pin production, Smith says, can increase the output of a single pin maker up to 50 times. He cites the example of a pin factory that had produced 48,000 pins in a day with only 10 workers. Whereas any one of them would be able to produce only 10 to 20 pins per day on his or her own.
Therefore, the biggest benefit of specialization is clearly the increased speed of production. And with increased speed comes a decrease in price.
Benefits of Specialization for Employees
As we’ve seen in the example of pin production, the production of goods today involves a number of highly specialized tasks.
And, according to Harvard Business Review, the same is going to be true for services (it’s already true to some extent.) They call that trend hyperspecialization.
Hyperspecialization drives down the cost for companies that are hiring hyperspecialists, but it doesn’t mean that hyperspecialists are paid less. Quite contrary, they can earn more per hour because they can simply get more done.
Also, they can more easily establish their expert authority and therefore build a personal brand which makes it easier for them to charge premium rates as freelancers or negotiate a premium salary as full-time employees.
Besides that, specialization can provide you with an opportunity to do something you love. And it doesn’t have to be a conventional vocation.
For example, instead of being a veterinarian who deals with animals in a more general way, treating them for different kinds of health issues, you can become a specialist for animal behavior. You can then drill down from animals in general to man’s best friends, dogs, and you’ll have one of the most fulfilling careers an animal lover can imagine.
How to Specialize
The most obvious path to becoming a specialist is, as you may have guessed, is to follow your natural inclinations. It will help you to choose among many different options and to put in the hours you need to become a specialist.
The other way, and probably the one which most people will follow, is to start as a generalist and then follow the demand. For example, if you start out as a digital marketing manager in a big corporation, you may find out that your competitors, and big corporations in general, have a burning need for marketing automation. Thus, you can specialize in marketing automation and after only a few years become a highly sought-after expert in the field.
Or you can start in a more general position (such as a sales manager) in some industry and then become an expert for that industry, for example, a sales expert for construction material.
How to Find Jobs as a Specialist
The job search for specialists can start on job boards or on LinkedIn. In both cases, it’s important to first determine what jobs you are going after. Are you following your interests or the demands of the market which industry you’re getting into?
When you decide on that, you can apply for open positions, or you can just reach out to people who might be interested in the skills and experience you can offer.
And here’s the catch: since you’re a specialist and you know very well what your strengths are and/or what’s in demand right now, you don’t have to apply for open positions only. You can reach out to decision-makers in companies you want to work for, introduce yourself and get so many job offers that it can be hard to choose the right one.
The process you need to follow is simple.
- Do a Google search and paste the website URL of every company you’d like to work for in a spreadsheet
- Go to every website in the spreadsheet and use one of those extensions to find an email address of the decision-maker (CEO, HR, or VP of your department)
- Alternatively, you can use LinkedIn to find prospects
- Write your resume or LinkedIn profile with one goal in mind: to present your special skills to those who might need them
- Send your resume to the email addresses you’ve collected in step 3, or send connection requests on LinkedIn
If you know what your specialty is and who might benefit from it, this simple process should yield great results. You should be able to get many interviews and possibly a few job offers.
And when you have some job offers on the table, you don’t have to be a master deal-maker to negotiate a lucrative deal for yourself. That’s the whole point of being a specialist: to be proactive about your career and to position yourself on the job market as a candidate with unique abilities that many employers would happily pay for.
Specialization (the division of labor) has a long tradition in our society and a great track record of cutting costs and increasing productivity. Employers know the benefits of hiring a specialist. Therefore, your task as a job seeker is to find out which specialty you want to pursue, then to develop it, and finally to present it to those who might find it valuable and are willing to pay for it.
Frank Evans is a freelance writer interested in digital marketing, HR and business development. When he’s not writing, you can find him on a long walk with his dog or on camping with his girlfriend.