In today’s ever-changing workplace, the one thing that will not change is the fact that the pace of change is not going to slow down. In the movie The Bone Collector, which starred Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, the plot was about a serial killer whose signature was to leave behind a piece of bone of his victim to mark his accomplishment.
Likewise, The Competency Collector is also about becoming accomplished but in a less dramatic way. The focus is more on the types of competencies that new workforce entrants can accumulate in order to prolong the longevity of their careers.
Skill + ability = competence
A competency is more than just knowledge and skills. Competencies include abilities and behaviours that are fundamental to the use of a skill, which will elevate that particular skill to a higher level. For example, a skill in an IT (information technology) context is “programming”. To write a computer programme, one needs to have the skill to write the programme in a specific language such as Java, C++ and C#.
However, to effectively write a programme, one needs great analytical, logical and problem-solving abilities. Underlying that programming skill is the ability to piece things together – and that’s competence.
This might interest you: A Walk-Through Competency-Based Interview
Skill in itself is too narrow an interpretation. Often, it’s the behavioural elements that truly matter to those who engage you for your abilities.
Competency types and trends
Which competencies are more critical? Generally, there are two categories of competencies:
- Behavioural (or life) competencies - These are what you rely on to manage your life and get on well with others, i.e. communication, teamwork, analytical ability, problem solving, initiative, influencing, etc.
- Functional (or technical) competencies - These relate to functions, processes and roles within the organisation. They are needed to accomplish a job or task, i.e. financial reporting, sales, programming, database analysis, etc.
Based on a recent Leaderonomics survey and direct feedback from the community of employers, behavioural competencies seem more important. The ones that matter at entry level are listed below:
- Teamwork – working well with others and putting team above self.
- Critical thinking – formulating views and backing it up with relevant evidence.
- Communication – expressing and describing thoughts effectively.
- Reliability – committed and persevering to get things completed.
- Adaptability – can adapt to various situations and types of people.
Action plan for graduates
While still in university, you can take up opportunities to join co-curricular activities like playing sports and taking part in experiential learning activities. You can also consider participating in competitions that allow you to interact with those outside your normal circles. Alternatively, gain exposure interning in an industry that is different from what your seniors did, or go travel and make new friends in different countries.
You might want to read this: Are We Performing Beyond Just Functional Competencies?
Once working life commences, join a company where nobody looks or thinks like you. Pick a good first boss, i.e. someone who sets you up early in your working life to be a big fan of getting feedback. Be open to consider roles that take you out of your comfort zone.
While we are busy collecting our competencies, it’s important to reflect on our progress via feedback, regularly and intentionally. This is to give us a realistic picture of where we are in terms of progress.
At certain times, we have to go with the flow and take on tasks that push us out of our norm. Such experiences can give us the chance to learn and acquire deeper proficiency in our competencies.
All the best!