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What is Career Readiness?
The term “career readiness” is frequently thrown around in higher education settings. Whether it is promised to prospective students and parents at admissions info sessions, listed as a learning goal on course syllabi, or declared by students upon graduation, career readiness is on people’s minds at every stage in their education. For a concept so central in higher education, it may surprise you that there was not much consensus around its definition until just a few years ago. In 2014, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted extensive research among employers to finally define career readiness as “the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.” NACE identified eight key competencies, listed below, to help students, educators, and employers talk about career readiness with more precision and a common vocabulary.
NACE Career Competencies:
- Critical Thinking/Problem Solving: Exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome problems. The individual is able to obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data in this process, and may demonstrate originality and inventiveness.
- Oral/Written Communications: Articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms to persons inside and outside of the organization. The individual has public speaking skills; is able to express ideas to others; and can write/edit memos, letters, and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
- Teamwork/Collaboration: Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints. The individual is able to work within a team structure and can negotiate and manage conflict.
- Digital Technology: Leverage existing digital technologies ethically and efficiently to solve problems, complete tasks, and accomplish goals. The individual demonstrates effective adaptability to new and emerging technologies.
- Leadership: Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals, and use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others. The individual is able to assess and manage his/her emotions and those of others; use empathetic skills to guide and motivate; and organize, prioritize, and delegate work.
- Professionalism/Work Ethic: Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time workload management, and understand the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image. The individual demonstrates integrity and ethical behavior, acts responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind and is able to learn from his/her mistakes.
- Career Management: Identify and articulate one’s skills, strengths, knowledge, and experiences relevant to the position desired and career goals, and identify areas necessary for professional growth. The individual is able to navigate and explore job options, understands and can take the steps necessary to pursue opportunities, and understands how to self-advocate for opportunities in the workplace.
- Global/Intercultural Fluency: Value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. The individual demonstrates openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences.
How does this vocabulary help you?
As a student, you likely already have classes, clubs, on- or off-campus work experience, internships, and/or more, all of which contribute to your career readiness. Having that knowledge and experience is excellent, but it is only the first step. Being able to articulate how taking that course, being a member of that club, or your experience from your summer internship make you more competent is critical. If you are having trouble talking about your experience or writing about it on your resume or cover letter, you can use these competencies outlined by NACE to identify and discuss your key strengths. You can even use them to articulate how your academics have prepared you better for the workplace. Every major has articulated learning goals on their website. Check out yours to see how your major is benefitting you beyond the basic curriculum.
Interested in learning more? Read up on Career Readiness here: www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/