The 5 Levels Of Professional Competence
Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Strategic Issues

The 5 Levels Of Professional Competence

June 20, 2014

by Tony Vidler

A strange question to ask perhaps, but can a professional be both competent and incompetent simultaneously?

Of course they can.

As new regulatory standards are embedded everywhere for professional services a word which frequently springs up as measure of professionalism is “competence”. Advisers everywhere grasp the broad concept of competence, and accept the logic of needing to BE competent in their area of expertise.  However, there is ongoing confusion for many about whether they are actually competent enough to be classed as competent by a regulator.

The are 5 levels of competence that you could use to describe the different levels of professional knowledge and skill

1.  Ignorance  (I know nothing and cannot advise)

2.  Awareness (I am aware of issues associated with it, but not how to fix them)

3.  Knowledgeable (I understand the issues and many of the solutions, but not all)

4.  Competent (I have excellent working knowledge of issues & solutions and can help)

5.  Expertise (I am an authority with deep technical understanding and will find the optimal solution)

It is entirely possible – in fact it is highly probable – that any professional will have ALL of these levels of expertise (including “ignorance”) in some area of their industry.

The key for professionals is to understand what level of competence they have in any particular area.  For example, on my most optimistic self assessment I could not rate myself as anything better than having a level of “awareness” when it comes to currency trading/forex.  Frankly, it would be downright dangerous to give me your Yen and ask me to begin trading in international currencies on your behalf….it will end in tears for everyone.

Yet, I could nominate other areas where I think I can claim to have absolute expertise….and plenty where I am competent but by no means an authority.  Every adviser would be in the same position I believe, with a range of professional knowledge and skill that runs from “ignorance” to “expertise” in different elements of their profession.
From a regulatory and best practice perspective the objective is to only operate in those areas where you truly do have competence or expertise.
From a marketing and business growth perspective you will be better off working only in areas of true “expertise”, where you are an absolute authority.
If there is no area where you could claim absolute authority yet, then all your professional development and personal growth activities should be focussed on attaining precisely that.
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