In economic development, should you hire a generalist or specialist? It's a question we raised in our last post, which sparked some great comments from those in the industry.
"While I would love to have a budget to hire both generalists AND specialists, I have most often found myself only able to hire one person. Once I needed a generalist to work many economic development tasks so I looked for a 'generalist' with an interest in many things and with what I judged was an ability to gain specialized knowledge when needed. Another time I needed a specialist's skill set so I hired the applicant with the special skills who also showed an ability to adapt and learn/grow as the position evolved."
"Due to the nature of EDO work and the need for flexibility, I like hard working generalists over specialists, but contract with specialists when needed."
"I would advocate that anyone who has earned his or her stripes as a credible and/or credentialed economic development professional is a generalist with multi forms of specialized expertise. There is no question that there is a need for specialists in fields not necessarily unique to economic development such as IT, website development/maintenance, general financial operations, etc., but for the overall areas of expertise in the profession of economic development, the generalist is most important. I would also add that it is risky to try to quantify or define positions within EDOs or the economic development field because true ED positions by necessity need to be generalists with a broad range of specialized training and expertise."
As you can see, there are various opinions on the topic, and while we're not here to determine who is a better fit for your specific needs, we thought this "ED cheat sheet" might be helpful in making the 'generalist or specialist' call.