“How many years experience do you have managing left-handed proofreaders, and proactively fixing split infinitives in a high-pressure B2B financial services company within a highly-matrixed but siloed environment with a lot of corporate ambiguity?”
While this is not exactly what I’ve seen or heard, too many times I am puzzled by the specificity of the qualifications that employers are seeking to fill positions. Master carpenters work with wood and can handle anything you throw at them, whether or not s/he has ever built a kitchen armoir under a pot rack in a Byzantine-styled kitchen in Connecticut…with child-locks.
Robert Heinlein broached our growing tendency toward specialization more than 50 years ago in Exeunt the Humanities:
“The danger is that we shall become a nation of pedants. I use the word literally and democratically to refer to the millions of people who are moved by a certain kind of passion in their pastimes as well as in their vocations. In both parts of their lives this passion comes out in shoptalk … It is not the extent of their information that appalls; it is the absence of any reflection upon it, any sense of relation between it and them and the world. Nothing is brought in from outside for contrast or comparison; no perspective is gained from the top of their monstrous factual pile; no generalities emerge to lighten the sameness of their endeavor.”
To illustrate, stop by a newsstand and try to find a good general interest magazine. They no longer exist; there are of course many more types of magazines than ever before, but they are so specialized, tabloidized or politicized that you’re unlikely to find more than one or two stories in each one that are actually worth reading for anyone other than a fanatic.
In college, I read quote by Heinlein that always stuck with me; one that told me to broaden my interests, expand my experiences and embrace the larger context of life. It was in college that my eyes opened to how everything fits together; that skills in one area translate to others easily, and that being a mile deep in one subject may not serve you best as a human being:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert A. Heinlein