Schedule a Call

Learning New Skills - The 4 Stages

Aug 06, 2023

Learning New Skills – the 4 Stages of Competence

There is a learning paradigm which is often described as the "Four Stages of Competence" or the "Conscious Competence Learning Model." It explains the process individuals go through when acquiring new skills or knowledge. Let me explain each stage and share my personal journey through the Four Stages of Competence.

Stage 1

Unconsciously Incompetent: In this stage, a person is unaware of their lack of knowledge or skill in a particular area. They don't know what they don't know. They may be ignorant of the subject or underestimate the complexity involved. Essentially, they are incompetent but don't realize it.


The first part of my career I worked for the same company for 25 years.  It was the only company I knew.  I received 5 promotions and higher levels of compensation.  I did not know the first thing about networking.  What did I need networking for – life was good.  I was incompetent at networking and did not even realize my lack of skills.


Stage 2

Consciously Incompetent: At this stage, individuals become aware of their incompetence. They recognize that they lack knowledge or skill in a specific domain. This awareness can arise from self-reflection, feedback from others, or experiencing the limitations of their abilities. It is an important step because it signals the beginning of the learning journey.


After 25 years with the same company, I decided to leave.  As I began my job search it became crystal clear to me, I did not know how to network.  Lots of awkward conversations, replaying conversations in my head and thinking about what I could have said, should have said, etc.  And lots of frustration.  I clearly recognized the limitations of my abilities in a skill that is absolutely critical to conducting a successful job search.


Stage 3

Consciously Competent: In the third stage, individuals have acquired enough knowledge and skill to perform a task, but they must consciously think and concentrate on their actions. They understand the steps and principals involved, but it requires effort and concentration to execute them effectively. This stage often involves practice, repetition, and deliberate effort to improve performance.


Several years later I landed a job with a career management company.  This experience improved my knowledge and ability to network.  The clients we worked with were all searching for the jobs.  After several years I was teaching others about how important networking was and how to do it.


Stage 4

Unconsciously Competent: In the final stage, individuals have reached a level of competence where their skills have become automatic and ingrained. They can perform tasks or demonstrate knowledge effortlessly and without conscious thought. The actions have become second nature, and they can execute them without expending much mental energy. They have internalized the skills to the point where they become unconscious and instinctive.


When I left the career management company, I thought I knew everything there was to know about networking.  An executive coach said to me – “I hear so much passion and energy in your voice when you talk about career management and networking.  Do you know Lynne Waymon?”  I said no.  She introduced me to Lynne, the founder of Contacts Count.  Lynne and her sister Anne had just written a book – “Make Your Contacts Count.”

I read the book and was blown away.  What they learned about networking and conveyed in the book took networking to a whole new level for me.  I became a certified trainer and coach with Contacts Count in 2006 and in 2021 bought the company.  My time with Contacts Count has now brought me to Stage 4.  Networking has become effortless for me. 

It's important to note that these stages are not necessarily linear, and individuals may move back and forth between them. Additionally, the speed of progression through the stages can vary depending on the complexity of the skill, the individual's motivation, and the amount of deliberate practice and learning experiences they engage in.

Overall, the journey from being unconsciously incompetent to unconsciously competent involves a progression from ignorance to self-awareness, followed by deliberate effort and practice to develop competence, and finally, the integration of skills until they become second nature.



Discover tweaks you can make to your networking approach that will help you dramatically improve your skills and reduce the time it’ll take to find that person who has the power to hire you!