Thoughts On Competence And Buzzwords

August 5, 2007

First of all, is anyone else starting to get annoyed by the words competence and competency?  Granted, I think it’s always been a human resources buzzword, but it’s become popular amongst the personal branding/marketing types too.

Merriam Webster defines competence as the state of being competent, or having the requisite quality or abilities.  Other definitions use the words adequate or capable to define competence.  Wikipedia defines competence as it applies to human resources as “a standardized requirement for an individual to properly perform a specific job.”

Does anyone else think that the whole idea of advertising your competancies kind of misses the point?  I know that it is the popular HR term, but when it comes to promoting myself (or helping others do so), I don’t want to tell people what I’m adequate at, or what I’m capable of doing without screwing it up.  I want to tell what I’m awesome at and what areas I excell in.  Besides, competence is just such a bland, milquetoast word. 

So what words could be used instead of competency/competence?  Skill might be a good choice, and it tends to imply mastery as opposed to mere adequacy.

*On a related note, have you noticed that constant use of buzzwords is good way to tell when someone or something is full of shit?  Come on, if you really have good ideas/a great project/are part of an excellent company you don’t need to fill your speech or writing with buzzwords, which are often over-used to the point that they become meaningless anyways.  Instead of using these words, let’s try to really think about what we are trying to express and pick the best possible term or phrase for what we are trying to describe.

This article from A List Apart does an excellent job of Attacking Zombie Copy.

Another fantastic piece about writing on the web from A List Apart – Reviving Anorexic Web Writing.


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