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Featured Article: Job Security In Pursuit of Competence

Years ago, after I left teaching and coaching, I was hired by a health club as a trainer and a salesman for memberships. I had never had a moment of sales training but that changed almost immediately.

I went through a significant training program learning that philosophy as well as the technical side of selling.  Among the topics was a program that taught me a life lesson that I still hold as a basic truth of entering any profession or technical occupation but also applies to any new endeavor folks enter into. It has to do with being Competent.  Competence is defined as:

Having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc. for some purpose; adequate but not necessarily exceptional.

When we enter any new occupation, profession or skill requiring specialized training we are what is known as unconsciously incompetent, which means we don't even know what we don't know.  We don't even know the questions to ask or where to look to learn.  We need a great deal of leading and instruction from folks who do know the broad and detailed knowledge required to become competent.

Once we are introduced to necessary knowledge and/or skill sets and understand how they fit together for a particular skill or job function, but are not yet familiar enough to perform them alone, we call it consciously incompetent, which means we are actually aware of how ill equipped we are to perform the required tasks or skills at an acceptable level.  We actually become aware of the extent of what we don't know.

Then follows extensive study and training and more studying and more detailed training and practice, and we find ourselves able to perform the basic required functions and procedures of the job for which we are being trained. Now, we continue to practice repetition until we get it right repeatedly and we can claim to be consciously competent, which means we are able to perform required skills and job functions adequately, but you have to focus, think and pay constant attention to what you're doing. You are consciously competent.

At this point you are only one step away from the level of accomplishment that most folks aspire to and that’s the level at which you will want to operate as long as you’re in a particular job or profession.

At this level, you are enjoying doing the right thing in practically all areas of responsibility without having to think about it. You have attained the sought-after position as an unconscious competent.  You know what to do and you're doing it! This level of competence is what most everyone is working toward.  You might take time to gauge where you are in your job or profession and, depending on how you rate yourself determine or get help determining what your next best step is to become an unconscious competent.

About the Author

Richard T. Harris has been associated with Sagemark Consulting since 1980 where he has developed a financial planning practice focusing on wealth accumulation and conservation and business succession planning issues and exit strategies. Throughout his 30 year career with Sagemark he has attained qualification for the company’s Chairman’s Council four times and President’s Cabinet twenty-eight times. His professional designations include: Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant and the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification.

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