Improve Your Competence

29 Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than working for ordinary people.
Proverbs 22:29(NLT)

I have written on this verse before. This time I am taking another approach. The key word here is “competence”. Being competent means being able to perform our normal duties with higher efficiency, which in turn leads to faster results, better quality and lesser mistakes.

In the above verse, God wants us to be competent in our jobs and area of expertise. He pointed out that competent workers serve kings, not ordinary people. It seems to me that God wants us to improve in our jobs in order to get higher salaries. I am sure many of us will find such advice to be redundant. It is basic common sense. Why would God gave us such a common sense advice?

I believe he wants to remind us of a blind spot we often miss in our quest for improvements. Let me ask you this question. What comes into your mind when you think of getting rich? Most people with think of going out there to start a business, taking courses to get a better job or migrating to a richer country. Most of us cannot see how we can get rich in working in our current jobs. After all, if my job can make me rich, I am already rich by now.

The only exceptions are those high flyers who are on track to higher promotions. As for the rest of us, we look at the greener pastures at the other side of the fence and wish we can get there. So, Proverbs 22:29 is a timely reminder from God that there is also wealth where we are right now.

Let me give you a biblical example. David was a shepherd boy before he was summoned into the palace to serve King Saul. Do you think he had wasted his time as a shepherd? The answer is no. When David was working as a shepherd, he learned many things like building up his faith in God, fighting skills (like sling shots) when he fought the predators and familiarized with the topography of the region. When David took up the post of army commander, he was able to put in use the skills he had learned when he was a shepherd. So, David did not really waste his time as a shepherd.

This is the same for us. You may not see any opportunity for advancement in your present job. However, you need to realize that just because you don’t see it, it does not mean opportunity does not exist. God wants us to capitalize on the opportunities he has provided in our current jobs. He may wants you to move to another company or stay on with the existing one but the bottom line is there are many things you can do right now in your current job to improve your competency.

The following are some suggestions on how we should do it.

Work with the mentality of abundance.
People can tell the difference whether you work with a positive mindset or work grudgingly. When you fulfill the responsibilities of your job with a positive mindset, you will feel happy and more enthusiastic. People around you will be able to sense your joy and they will be drawn to you. You will have favor from God and men.

Not only that, working in a positive mindset is also a lifestyle of faith. When you are in faith, you can have everything you want. This is a guarantee from God.

Make it a habit to improve your job.
Even if your job is routine, it does not mean that you cannot think of ways to improve it. If you are a dish washer, think of ways to wash your dishes faster and cleaner. If you are selling burgers, think of ways to serve better and deliver the burgers faster to your customers. Whatever you are doing right now, there is always way to improve them. When you make it a habit to keep improving your works, your competence will also improve and you will be on your way to move up your career ladder.

I don’t think I need to convince anyone that specialists can earn more money than generalist. Being a specialist means focusing your efforts in acquiring knowledge and skills in a specific area of interest in order to become one of the best people in that area.

If you are a civil engineer, you can specialize in the construction of tall buildings, tunnels, bridges, dams or any other critical areas. If you are a chef, you don’t have to have the expertise to cook a lot of dishes. You can even specialize in desserts or cakes. So, you don’t even have to know how to fry a fish to be a high paying chef.

Specialization can indeed improve our income but it comes with a high price. It takes hard work in learning and taking additional courses after work. It won’t be a bed of roses but the reward is great.

Niche combinations.
Let me give you an example in this area. Supposing an music company needs to hire a manager to expand their business. The ideal candidate will need to have basic competence in management. However, if the job requires close interaction with the musicians, the company may want the candidate to have some music background. So, we have a special niche here, someone with both management and music background.

If you happen to fit into these 2 categories, you can demand a higher salary due to your uniqueness. There are many people out there with management expertise but you are the one who know music. There are many musicians out there but you are the one with management expertise. You may not be the best in management and music but the combination of both gives you an advantage.

In fact, this is the direction I am planning to take. Instead of taking courses in more advanced level in engineering, I am planning to expand my competence into area like quality. I want to be an engineer with expertise in ensuring overall quality in buildings. I will need to broaden instead of deepening my knowledge. I am learning more on architectural, electrical and mechanical works.

I am sure such expertise will be in demand as Singaporeans emphasize more in quality now.

No matter how bad your job situation looks like right now, there is always something to learn. You can only learn if you adopt a positive attitude in your job. Use it as an opportunity to improve in your competence. When you are truly competent, you will serve kings not ordinary men. You can even be the king’s business partner.

God wants us to improve in our competence. Don’t give up.

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