Figure Out the Factor That Will Fire Up Your Career

Discover it, develop it.

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Image Credit: Shutterstock

Everyone relishes success. But what drives success in your career? You need to know that secret.

Are educational qualifications the driver of success? Or is it the experience?

The answer is competency.

Competency is heady stuff, the most trending thing in HR over the last few decades.

What is Competency?

Competency is the unique set of knowledge, skills and abilities to do a job.

So, you need a unique set of three items.

1. Knowledge relevant to the job: You gain knowledge through learning at school or through work experience.

2. Skill is the ability to do the job well. You can gain skills through training and practice.

3. Personal attributes are the personal characteristics required for superior performance of a job. Examples can include honesty, integrity and sense of humour.

A job may have 4–10 competencies. You can divide them into technical, managerial and interpersonal competencies.

The technical competencies are technical abilities. Online marketing skills, project management skills are examples.

Emotional intelligence and strategic focus are examples of managerial competencies. Interpersonal competencies are an employee’s ability to work well with others. Communication is an example of interpersonal competency.

Managerial Competencies

Robert Katz’s Management Skills model helps us understand the competencies needed at different management levels.

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Robert Katz: Management Skills (Adapted)

The model groups managerial competencies into three categories: technical skills, human skills (or people skills), and conceptual skills.

In the early stages of the career, technical competencies are essential. You need people skills at every level of management.

At the top management level, conceptual skills are crucial. Interestingly, the share of technical skills in the set of competencies, keep reducing as you rise in the hierarchy.


The story of the competencies is complete only when you consider the proficiency levels.

Proficiency is expertise.

For example, a Storekeeper and a Public Relations Manager need to have communication skills. However, they need to have the skill at different proficiency levels.

Organisations typically define 3 -5 proficiency levels for a competency. They often use terms such as Expert, Advanced, Intermediate and Novice to signify different proficiency levels.

The successful performance depends on whether you have the competencies at the right proficiency level. If you have them, you stand a splendid chance of career success.

Nature Vs Nurture

How can you gain the essential competencies for a successful career? There has been a debate on whether the competencies are inborn, or can one develop them. Are they natural or nurtured?

The jury is still out on the subject.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, tells you a simple fact. If you practice a skill long enough, you will become proficient in it.

Way Forward

In short, you can get most of the competencies through learning and practice.

1. Think through your career and chart out a path.

2. Identify the set of competencies essential at each level.

3. Review your competencies and see which areas you are doing well and where you need to improve.

4. Work on the areas that need attention.

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