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What does competency look like?

Knowledge is facts and information acquired through education or experience.

Attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about something or someone, and is typically reflected in behavior.

Skill is the ability to do something well, knowing the techniques required to complete an action.

Behaviors are the ways in which we conduct ourselves.

When a person has the knowledge of how to do something, the attitude to want to do it, the behaviors that lead to doing it successfully, and the skills to actually accomplish it, that is a competent person.

A person who is competent in a particular area can, and will, accomplish a task without being told or asked to do it. I will use the example of mowing a lawn. Lawn mowing is on my mind lately because I recently mowed mine, scaring a skunk that was apparently living under my deck, causing him to spray. Now the smell in my house is slow to go away, regularly reminding me of mowing my lawn.

If you know what it means to mow lawn and why people mow, then you have knowledge. If you know when the lawn needs to be mowed, have a positive attitude about getting it done, and can plan your schedule to make time to mow, then you have the attitude and behaviors to mow the lawn. If you know how to go to the barn or shed, put gas in the mower, start it, mow the lawn completely and efficiently, and then put the mower away properly, then you have the skills to do it. If you have all of that you are, to some degree, a competent mower of lawns.

However, if one of those components is missing, you are not as competent or not at all competent when it comes to mowing a lawn.

There are a tremendous number of jobs available in Northeast Michigan (and elsewhere, this is not a problem in Northeast Michigan alone). There are not people with the competencies available to fill the jobs. Part of being competent for a particular job includes showing up on time, being willing to do the work, having the interest and ability to learn and follow directions, understanding that there is more value to you and society when you choose to work for a living, and having a level of adaptability or flexibility.

Let’s focus on adaptability and flexibility.

The needs of businesses change over time. Things happen that cause major changes to the needs that exist. Needs change as technology changes, things like COVID-19 happen, and peoples’ habits change. You may find yourself in a position one day where the competencies you have are no longer what businesses need. That does not mean you give up. That means it is time to consider growing different competencies for yourself.

You are not entitled or guaranteed to find meaningful — or any — work in the area in which you are most competent. It is your responsibility to adapt to the changes in the business climate to make yourself relevant to them. It is not the business’s responsibility to adapt to your competencies if they are outdated or unrelated to the real needs.

Not to pick on any particular field of study, but someone who majored in something like art history or archaeology may find it much more difficult to find a solid career opportunity right now than someone who is competent in plumbing or welding. Just like someone with a work ethic and positive attitude is more likely to find meaningful work than someone who doesn’t work hard or has a crusty attitude.

Our competencies can, and should, grow and change over time to keep relevant with the world.

And to be competent means more than just knowing how to do something.

People who are competent in an area have not only the skills but the knowledge and behaviors to achieve, as well. There are plenty of resources to help you improve your competencies.

There are formal education options, online resources, hands-on experience and practice, and mentorships.

There are thousands of excuses why we might not focus on growing our competencies, but there are very few — if any — legitimate reasons why we should not.

Jackie Krawczak is president of Jackie Krawczak LLC. Her column runs every three weeks on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.

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