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I am good at my job

I am also good at capturing touristy POIs with my trusted iPhone and applying Instagram filters to them. 😉

Am I the only person who feels it is very hard to admit that? I am good at my job. It took me a long time to realize that admitting you are good at something does not mean you are conceited or cocky. It also doesn’t mean I am saying others aren’t good. It means that I now realize I have enough experience to know that I am skilled at what I do.

Soft skills are hard

Most of the jobs I’ve had are positions where soft skills conquer; there is really no way to prove I do a good job. I can’t take a test to show I know about project management, or product management, or managing a team. I could pay for certifications, but I also feel they are not a true identifier of smart, successful, skilled people. They do a good job at identifying people who can listen or read and obtain the knowledge long enough to take a test. Am I good at that? Sure. But for me, what is the point?

Admit what you don’t know

I’ve always been successful in the roles and positions I’ve had in regards to promotions and positive reviews, but it wasn’t until this past year or so that I started realizing that I am good at my job. I am not sure if it is the dynamic of the team I work with now, or just the realization and understanding that I know what I don’t know, and I am not afraid to admit it. This is a hard thing to do. No one wants to look stupid. But I’ve also found that no successful person wants to be the smartest person in the room either. Nor does anyone know everything. (I’m sure the people who know everything will argue with this point. 😉 )

Maybe it is easier to admit what I don’t know when I am surrounded with smart people who know a hell of a lot more than me and I am constantly learning from them. Also, I don’t want or need to know everything a developer knows about technology/development/etc. A key take away I’ve realized is I have to determine how much I need know to be successful on a project or a task. And it usually equates to much less upfront knowledge than I once thought.

Determine what is needed

Aiming to learn more than necessary is usually a waste of time, especially if it won’t be applied in a timely manner. This was hard for me to grasp. I enjoy learning and like to know as much as possible about things (ahem…control freak.) But when it starts taking away from the areas where I need to focus, I determined I needed to re-evaluate this. I trust that I work with intelligent humans who are capable of making the hard decisions in their area of expertise. That is what makes a great team. Trust that the experts will make educated decisions; sometimes they won’t be the right decision, but learn from them, iterate, and evolve.

In my opinion, the ability to gauge how much information is needed is a determining factor for what makes a person successful at consulting versus unsuccessful. A consultant knows they have to learn enough to be able to make forward progress and provide value right away. There is not a lot of benefit to a company or consultant to learn every aspect and facet of a business they are working with and supporting – at least not during week 1. You have to prioritize what you need to learn to support the features or enhancements the business has decided are important. When the features are prioritized, a consultant can use it as a roadmap to define what and how much they need to learn and when.

Am I really any better?

In reality, I may not be any better at my job then I was 3 years ago in regards to new hard skills learned. The difference now is I am not afraid to admit what I don’t know, to determine how much I need to know to be successful, and let others make decisions where their expertise is better aligned with the problem. I am sure my hard skills have also advanced, but mostly, my perspective has shifted and my soft skills have grown as a result. While my experiences are directly related to managing software development efforts, I imagine these key takeaways are applicable to most people across different companies and positions.

How have you advanced your soft skills?

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