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How Competent Are You?




Psychology describes a learning model based on 4 stages of Competence.  Wikipedia explains the process like this:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
    The individual neither understands or knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit or has a desire to address it.
  2. Conscious incompetence
    Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it.
  3. Conscious competence
    The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration.
  4. Unconscious competence
    The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes "second nature" and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). He or she may or may not be able teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Over the years as I’ve trained several people in recruiting, or my kids in a new sport or skill, I’ve seen this process unfold many times. 

People often start out to do something, like calling a new networking contact in a job search, and not even realizing they are poor at it (Unconscious incompetence). 

After making a few calls and making no, or negative progress, they realize: “Wow, I’m not very good at this!” (Conscious incompetence).

Hopefully, they get some help, seek tips, workshops, and training.  They write scripts for themselves. They practice on their own, and with a friend.  They start making better calls, and although each one takes a lot of thought step-by-step, they begin getting results (Conscious competence).

If they continue honing their scripts, their presentation style, their responses, and practice, it begins to become natural for them.  They’ve developed a skill that no longer requires thought, but becomes instinctive (Unconscious competence).  Most people never achieve this level of skill.  People in this stage are generally top performers in their field or with that particular skill  (i.e. Tiger Woods).

How are your job search skills?  Have you just begun your job search and think “I know what I need to do!  I don’t need any help. I just gotta’ get talking to some people and I’ll get the job I need in no time!”?   Besides, the last time you had to look for a job, in 1999, all you had to do was post your resume online and you got 10 calls in a week and were in a new job in 3 weeks.

I’ve got news… the job market is different than it was in 1999, and you were early in your career then, looking for a $45,000 job.  There were, and still are, a LOT of jobs in that range.  Now you’re a Manager looking to replace a $95,000 salary.  Then, and now, there are far fewer jobs in that higher range.  You’re shooting for a tougher target, and need to ratchet up your approach accordingly.

If you’ve just been laid-off and begun your search you may be inclined to do what’s common. Most people immediately rush to get a resume together and get it sent out to as many places as they can in the hopes of getting a new job as quickly as possible.  My Job Search classes are usually full of people that send out hundreds of resumes and make calls right after their layoff.  After several weeks with no response or some bad interviews (Unconscious incompetence), they realize they need to improve their approach (Conscious incompetence).

Taking some time to learn skills and best practices will make your search much more effective and successful sooner!  Take time to learn about:

Even someone that’s been in a hiring role for a number of years, learns quickly that life is very different on the other side of the job hunt process.  Even someone that is very articulate and quick on their feet, finds that they can be MUCH more effective if they are well prepared.  Even someone who has gone through multiple job searches in the past, will find that a job search in this economic environment is different and will have more success with updated skills.

How competent are you?  Be honest with yourself, and spend some time to learn and practice!


Thank you for visiting The Wise Job Search. I truly appreciate your interest. If you like the material here and would like to help keep it viable, please peruse and visit book recommendations, and other resources posted throughout the site. Best wishes on your continued search, and feedback is always welcome!

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