TBL May 2024 - 17

Competence, Commitment,
& Compatibility:
The Three Cs to Get
Your Career on Track
he minute you step into a new role is the minute your
managers, coworkers, and clients will ask themselves
three questions:
" Can you do the job well? " (Are you competent?)
" Are you excited to be here? " (Are you committed?)
" Do you get along with us? " (Are you compatible?)
Your job is to convince them that the answer to all three
questions is " Yes! " Prove that you are competent, and people
will want to offer you more important responsibilities. Prove
that you are committed, and people will want to invest in you.
Prove that you are compatible, and people will want to work with
you. Demonstrate all three of these Cs, and you'll maximize your
chances of building trust, unlocking opportunity, and getting
closer to achieving your career goals.
Competence means you can do your job fully, accurately, and
promptly without needing to be micromanaged - and without
making others look bad.
True competence can be difficult to measure. It's easy if
you're a baker or coder; one simply has to taste your cake or test
your code. But for many jobs-where much of your day is spent
interacting with people-measuring competence isn't easy at all.
In the absence of clearly measurable outputs, managers
often rely on inputs - like how much progress it looks like you
are making on a project, how confidently you speak in meetings,
and how well you promote yourself. It's no surprise, then, that
the people who get promoted or who get the highest-profile
assignments aren't always the most competent. Your actual
competence still matters, but your perceived competence can be
just as important.
Commitment means you are fully present and eager to help your
team achieve its goals-but not so eager that you put others on
the defensive.
Just because you are committed doesn't mean people perceive
you to be committed. Sometimes, little actions like showing up
late, looking away on video chat, not volunteering for tasks, not
By Gorick Ng
By Amy Gallimore
speaking up enough, or
not replying to emails
as quickly as your
coworkers do can be
enough to cast doubt on
how committed you are.
Your first job likely won't
be your last job. People get that.
Your interests and goals can change.
People get that, too. But employers do expect a certain level of
perceived commitment.
Compatibility means you make others comfortable and eager to
be around you-without coming across as inauthentic or trying
too hard.
What's challenging about compatibility is that it depends
on whom you're with and what norms and unconscious biases
they have. If you are joining a team where everyone looks like
you, sounds like you, behaves like you, and has experiences and
worldviews similar to yours, then you may never think twice
about your identity. But if you are joining a team where people
are different from you, whether in terms of race, ethnicity,
socioeconomic background, gender identity, sexual orientation,
dis/ability, religion, age, degree of introversion or extroversion,
or other characteristics, then your identity can influence not only
how others judge your Three Cs but also how you see yourself.
Gorick Ng is a career adviser at
Harvard College and on the faculty of
the University of California, Berkeley.
He is the author of The Unspoken
Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career
Off Right, from which this article is
excerpted. He will be the featured
speaker at the Collegiate National
Leadership Conference Opening
General Session on June 24.
MAY 2024 | 17 |

TBL May 2024

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