Jennifer B. Davis
This is the general manager's delimna. To do the job well, the GM needs a well-rounded background and an understanding of a range of business disciplines from marketing to product development, from finance to operations. There is a case here for career diversification.

However, most GMs do not have a broad, highly-diversified background. Most rise to the ranks through a particular function (from a marketing coodinator to marketing manager to marketing director to VP of marketing). It is easy to tell the story of their career. There is a case here for career specialization.

Combined, these would recommend a moderate diversification strategy. A broad enough range of experience to give you a grounding in the discipline and the vocabulary, but enough of a continuity to make it easy to write a bio and build credibility with other executives, boards of directors, and investors.

In 1972, Richard Rumelt, a professor of strategy at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, ws the first to uncover a statistical link between corporate strategy and profitability, finding that moderately diversified companies outperform more diversified ones. Perhaps the same is true of careers.

The great news for all of us is that we own our careers. If yours has been narrowly focused on a discipline or function, branch out. Take a new assignment, take a class, volunteer, or start a business to get experience in an area that you don't already have. Remember, the goal is moderately diverse (and, of course, in an area that interests and excites you).

If your career has been broad and varied, now might be the time to focus. Also look at the common threads in the positions or roles you have had. Emphasize those commonalities to help weave a more cohesive career story and a more "moderately diverse" background.
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