There are two kinds of people in the world – competent and incompetent. It is generally easy to identify who is in which category. But I believe there is an entire spectrum of competency and we can consistently travel along the spectrum and bounce between the two. After all, both words have the same root of competent.
Take Your Job Seriously
In my book, this is an important piece to being a competent employee. If you do not take your job seriously, you will not care about your performance and how it affects your entire museum. Especially in the early days of our careers, we take jobs that could be done by anyone. Sometimes these jobs are not in a desired department. This does not mean you should not take your job seriously. Whether this job is a foot in the door or not, others are dependent on this position and expect that it be performed well.
Kindness goes a long way. How many phrases do we quote the enforce the idea of being kind? One of my favorites is: “You is kind, you is smart, and you is important.” When you are kind to someone, you are approachable and trustworthy. Kindness does not mean being a doormat either. Kindness is all about how you communicate and treat other people. It is possible to be kind and stand up for yourself.
Know Your Stuff
If you are a kind person and take your job seriously, you still need to know your stuff. And if you do not know it, absolutely do not lie about it. The cover up is worse than not knowing how to do something. Be transparent about your shortcoming, but be clear that you will do your best to learn and get the task done. We live in the age of YouTube and you can learn anything from that magical place. For example, I got great pivot table and dashboard training from YouTube. The internet is your oyster, my friend.
Practice Makes Permanent
Seek feedback and always try to improve your performance. If your boss says they had a problem with the way you handled a situation or expresses deep concern at your timeline for completing a project, take note and maybe think about how you can improve. The longer you do something a certain way, the longer that it sticks. Be aware and willing to make a change.
Seek Professional Help
I love museum evaluation and could talk for days about how I think it is the most underutilized museum tool. While I know how to ask a good question and love to read museum data. However, I know my data analysis skills have room for improvement, which is essential to evaluation. Sure, in grad school I learned the why behind evaluation, but I never learned the most efficient way to use excel or how to use SQL to tap in to a database. Since I wanted to be better at this, I took an online course with General Assembly. Y’all, I learned SQL, best practices in data visualization, and tons of excel shortcuts. I’m now more confident analyzing data and do not have to google every single step.
Consider taking a class or two to help you improve in an area of your job. It could help you perform your job with greater confidence or it could be the missing piece of your resume to help you land your dream job.
Lastly, Do Not Compare
Whatever you do, please do not compare yourself to your coworkers or other professionals. This will set you up for defeat. Not only do we live in a self-curating age, but we work in museums where we literally curate every day. Everyone knows how to display a version of themselves that they want others to see. Just because someone seems to do everything perfectly, does not mean that they do. We all have flaws, so do not look to your coworker as your competency crucible. You do you.
Go forth and seek competence.