There are four stages of developing competence:
- Unconscious Incompetence — This is the phase where you don’t know what you don’t know. There is a skill that you are missing but you don’t even know what it is yet. This is the most vulnerable and dangerous stage as it applies to the context of our work lives. There are a lot of things in this world we don’t know and we are ok with that. Ignorance is bliss after all. Not when it comes to our careers. We may not want to or need to know the details of every aspect of our enterprise, when it comes to our specific jobs and our soft skills, it is disastrous for us to not know what we are missing. But then again, this stage is the starting point of all learning. So we must acknowledge that there will always be things about our jobs and ourselves that we don’t yet know we need to improve while trusting that when the time and circumstance is right, we will naturally move to the next stage which is knowing what we don’t know.
- Conscious Incompetence — This is the stage where we realize there is a gap and identify the exact skill we need to develop. We come to terms with our ignorance and incompetence in a particular area. Here we come to a crossroads. We have to make a decision whether to lean in and begin the journey of learning this skill or acknowledge we have a gap in a particular area and be intentional about living with it. For the most part, our choice will always be to learn and grow. What is life without consistently learning and growing. Both personally and professionally. And so, once we decide we have a gap, we set to work to close it.
- Conscious Competence — This is where the learning begins. Conscious competence is the stage where we are actively working on the skill but we are yet novices. We try some things, we fail, we learn some lessons and try again. We keep getting better. Our competence grows slowly and surely but it doesn’t come naturally yet. We still have a ways to go before our competency becomes a part of our DNA. The key here is to be persistent and determined and not giving up.
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Zainab Zaki is a technology product manage and co-founder of TappedIn