On being competent

Competent. Having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; efficient; properly qualified. Also adequate but not exceptional.

I am competent at a lot of things. I even have a picture with a little engraved plaque from sailing camp in junior high where I was awarded “Most Competent.” Generally, when it comes to athletics, I’m competent. I can play soccer, but I’m never going to be first string or be the star player. Basketball, competent. Swimming, yup, you guessed it, competent. In rugby, I am (or was) maybe maybe a little above competent. I have pretty damn good (rugby) ball handling skills, quick hands when passing the ball, and my passes hit their mark. But I’m never going to be on some big national team or earn awards. I’m never going to be a star. I’m excellent support and a good player to have on your team because I have sufficient skills, but that’s it.

There’s nothing wrong with being competent. It’s a good thing. It means you can do stuff successfully, complete tasks, get things done. I like being competent. With some things, I like to think I’m a bit better than competent, like in my chosen career of cataloging, or when it comes to cooking (I’m a damn good cook, thankyouverymuch), to give two examples. But generally, I’m competent. I get the job done. Competence can also be considered being reliable, and I like being reliable.

But sometimes, competency is a curse. It’s a curse because people give you things to do. They assume that because you’re competent you’ll get the job done, and well, they’re right, you will. Competent people often end up being the “go to” people for projects. Competent people end up doing a lot of random tasks because they have sufficient skills to complete them successfully. This has been the recent trend in my life. Because I’m competent, I’ve been doing a lot of random things. Things that make me say: “WHY is this mine to do??” Well, I’m competent. I have sufficient skills so I’m going to figure it out and get it done.

I’ve spent the past few days wrestling with HTML and page layouts. I’m not a web coder. I’ve never been a web coder. CSS is not something I ever really understood before (but I do now, believe me). I can read code, figure it out, even write very very basic code, especially when I have resources to remind me of what some of the tags are and I have people to ask for help (which, thankfully, I do have, and I’ve been using them…I owe a lot of people cookies as thank yous right now). I might even go as far as to put HTML/XML down as a “skill” on my resume because I can do it, I’m just not a superstar at it and it takes me some time. I’m learning lately that I can read lots of different types of code, including PERL. But I wouldn’t necessarily put PERL down as a skill on my resume. Now, I do consider myself a coder, but a cataloging coder using MARC, Machine Readable Cataloging. This is not HTML. It’s a completely different kind of metadata and code than HTML, but still putting metadata in a code form. But because I’m competent, meaning I’m capable of figuring it out and eventually writing the HTML code and doing the page layouts successfully, because HTML could be considered a “skill” because I do have sufficient knowledge, I have a project. And it’s making me crazy.

Sometimes, I’d just rather not be considered competent.


About slmcdanold

I’m learning to laugh at myself on a daily basis. I’m a librarian (cataloger) and I love it. My job involves all things metadata related in any and all formats. I have been known to cause a ruckus when necessary (aka troublesome cataloger) and make no apologies for it. I have a passion for continuing education and teaching. I’m a newbie coder (still learning). I like to cook. I’m a fan of rugby (go Australian Wallabies!) and ice hockey (go Detroit Red Wings!). I’m car-free and bike/walk a lot. I’m learning to love running one stride at a time. I own (and love) a very mouthy cat with a punk attitude and a slightly neurotic rescue mutt.
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