In business and in life, we all have to use our natural talents and skills in order to succeed. Cultural resource and heritage conservation jobs are no different. Each of us has different attributes, or competencies, that allow us to do certain activities easier or better than others. Emphasizing these core competencies is essential for anyone interested in working in heritage conservation, cultural resource management, or any other environmental consulting field.
I work with an extremely talented and intelligent young woman that always seems to get complicated jobs done under pressure. She is comprehensive, organized, and a hard worker. She seems to have an inherent knack at identifying the elements involved in each work-related task and efficiently completing them without making mistakes. I am envious of these abilities because I’m really forgetful. Sometimes I overlook little tasks that need to get done, which only creates more work later on in the project. I try to work with this lady every chance I get because, with her help, everything ends up in great shape.
While she’s good at identifying and accomplishing tasks flawlessly, she tends to overanalyze things and stress her own self out. When things get really busy, my co-worker begins focusing on all the little tasks that have to get done. This makes each project appear overwhelming and it increases her stress level. This is unnecessary stress because she knows in her heart that the entire project will eventually get done, piece by piece, just like it always does. She’s a great worker under fire, but oftentimes that “fire” is of her own doing.
Just like my co-worker friend, we all have certain things we do better than others. Businesses are no different than people. Each business has things it does well and things that get done poorly. In business and in life, we should emphasize the things we do well in order to stand apart from the crowd and get the opportunities we need to excel.
What are core competencies?
Core competencies are a constellation of skills and talents that allow a business or individual to excel at a given task or activity. The term was developed by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad in their book “Competing for the Future.” This book suggested that businesses make a list of the things they do well and focus on emphasizing those skills and services as a means to better compete in the business world. Individuals can do this as well. Accentuating the best of a business or person’s skillset is an excellent strategy for separating yourself from the pack.
For those of us working in CRM and heritage conservation, it is important for you to focus on identifying your core competencies and emphasizing them to your clients or potential employers.
Business Core Competencies
If you want to see the biggest example of a company that emphasizes its core competencies, look no further than Apple computers. This last week, Apple became the most valuable company in the history of the world—worth a record $623 billion dollars. The key to Apple’s success lies in its ability to advertise its easy-to-use products as something that actually makes your life better. They’re also killing it in the marketplace because they constantly push the idea that by using Apple products, you are part of an elite, cool, special group. Apple has created an ever-increasing tribe of followers that are fanatical about their products.
Apple’s true core competency is their ability to make intuitive products and convince people that their products will make your life easier. If you’ve ever seen an Apple commercial, you realize the company is selling you by showing you that your life will get easier after buying their products. But, more likely, someone you know has told about a cool, simple, and life-changing some Apple product they own. This word-of-mouth marketing is much more powerful than any commercial will ever be. Apple sells a lifestyle enabled only through their sleek technology.
Individual Core Competencies
Exceptional people are usually excellent at expressing their own, personal core competencies. Tom King is a self-described cultural resource writer, teacher and consultant. He’s also an example of what can happen when we show our core competencies. If you work in cultural resource management archaeology, you’ve probably read King’s Cultural Resource Law and Practice (if you haven’t, I think it’s an excellent start to thinking about the mechanics of CRM). If you want to hear what Tom’s up to, check out his blog.
Through this book and his many others, King is influencing CRM archaeologists across the country. His CRM writing demonstrates King’s skill at explaining the extremely complex and, at times, convoluted process of evaluating cultural resources using United States federal regulations. King is a skillful teacher, which is probably a core competency that CRMers rarely get to use. While he is a very experienced archaeologist, King shows his competency at conveying complex information to his peers in an interesting and memorable way.
Using your Core Competencies
Like I said before, we all have core competencies. We just have to: 1) identify them, 2) use them, and 3) tell others.
1) Identification– It’s really as easy as writing a list of things you or your company does well. You don’t have to be the best at something to be good at it. Be generous with yourself. A skill is something you do better than the other people you know or businesses you compete against. Are you organized? Are you personable with other people? Do you care about the wellness of others? Are you a good writer or excellent at math? All of those are individual skills or talents that you can use to identify core competencies, which are groups of those skills and talents. Make a list of your individual skills and group them together into core competency sets. For example, I love to research, am naturally inquisitive, and am decent at writing. Therefore, it’s been pretty easy for me to make my way as a scientific technical writer.
2) Practice– Once you’ve figured out what you’re good at, you need to practice those skills in order to make them even better. For example, I want to be a better writer so I write almost every day. Texts, emails, blog posts, even grocery lists; I like to think that these things all help keep my skills sharp for the occasions when I need to use them at work. Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.
3) Showcase your Talents– You need to tell others about your skills once you’ve identified them. Clients or potential employers will never know what you can do until you tell them about it. Businesses can show their talents through a website, trade article, or through testimonials from happy customers. A résumé, personal website, article or referrals are among the best ways for an individual to spread the word about their core competencies. Take your pick and spread the word.
Some people would say small businesses and individuals don’t really need to worry about identifying and emphasizing their core competencies. But, the business world is tough and you need to use everything you’ve got to make your success easier. Emphasizing the things you do best is an excellent way to set yourself or your business apart from the crowd– in a good way.
Think about how you’re using and expressing your core competencies. If you aren’t, start today!
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