Career Readiness Competencies

Being career ready means that you have the skills and tools needed to launch or continue your career after graduation. As a UT Austin student, you have developed skills through curricular and co-curricular experiences to be successful in the job market; however, you may be wondering: how do I articulate my skills and experience to an employer?

Explore the eight competencies below and learn how to describe the work you’ve done in and out of the classroom in a career context. Understanding career competencies gives you the power to:

  • Have Confidence in Your Strengths by identifying the competencies you have and those you want to gain.
  • Enhance Your Interview Skills by providing a descriptive competency-based story of your experiences, background and abilities.
  • Promote Yourself to professional contacts and recruiters by introducing yourself in a way that describes your professional goals and highlights the attributes, background and strengths that make you stand out.

The Eight Career Competencies

Employers and universities from around the country partnered to develop a common list of high-demand skills and verbiage to help students demonstrate their career readiness to employers.

Below are definitions of these eight career competencies and real-world examples provided by UT Austin students.

Critical thinking is an intentional way of reflecting, asking questions or analyzing. Problem solving focuses on a specific situation or issue.

  • You can explain the steps you used to gain and interpret knowledge, facts and data to analyze an issue, make a decision or solve a problem.
  • You have completed a task or used resources in a new or different way and can describe your process.
Competency Example
You can explain the steps you used to get and interpret knowledge, facts and data to analyze an issue, make a decision or solve a problem. “When moderating jobs on Handshake, I need to interpret the information provided by employers according to the recruitment policies established by the University. Once I decide whether the account can be approved or not, I provide a clear and concise explanation for that decision.”
You have completed a task or used resources in a new or different way and can describe your process. “Because our office has gone through drastic levels of change in services as well as staff members, staying on the same page can be hard to manage. Because of this, I created a daily task guide that provides student staff a source of direction in completing day-to-day tasks in the case that there isn’t another staff member available to help.”

The act of effectively sending messages through writing or relaying ideas verbally so that someone else understands your intent and meaning.

  • You articulate your thoughts and ideas through speaking and writing to coworkers, supervisors, customers and clients.
  • You have experience speaking to and engaging people, whether it is in small groups, large presentations or anything in between.
  • You have experience writing and editing a variety of business communications such as emails, letters, messages, brief announcements or complex technical reports.
Competency Example
You say your thoughts and ideas clearly through speaking and writing to coworkers, supervisors, customers and clients. “As a Career Associate at Texas Career Engagement during shelter-in-place policies, I adapted to the heavy focus put on Zoom meetings, Slack messaging, emails and task delegation and the decreased face-to-face interaction that was normal to the office.”
You have experience speaking to and engaging people, whether it is in small groups or large presentations and anything in between. “I have served as a panelist in various conversations surrounding mental health and development programs for underrepresented communities. During these panelist conversations, I make an effort to practice skills such as active listening, eye contact, appropriate body language and overall attentiveness. This allows me to comprehend better what message is being relayed so that I can communicate effectively.”
You have experience writing and editing a variety of business communications such as emails, letters, messages, brief announcements, or complex technical reports. “As the publicity head for one of my organizations, I was in charge of communicating information from my organization to my audience. This took place in multiple forms such as curated social media posts, newsletters, and announcements. When doing this, I kept in mind that while I am writing on behalf of a brand, I am also communicating with another individual.”

Teamwork and collaboration involve a group of people working together toward a common goal. Teamwork may include coordinating a group of individual efforts together, while collaboration involves working cohesively and collectively.

  • You build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, religions, lifestyles, abilities and viewpoints.
  • You are able to work in a team and negotiate and manage conflict when it arises.
Competency Example
You build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, religions, lifestyles, abilities and viewpoints. “At work, we have a very large and diverse staff. When working on large projects, I need to interact with multiple staff members on several different levels of the hierarchy. Ultimately, this produces work that is inclusive and well-rounded.”
You are able to work in a team and negotiate and manage conflict when it arises. “In one of my classes, we were assigned a media campaign group project. My group worked together to decide how we wanted to market ourselves and what elements of the campaign to place the most focus on. I knew it was important for us each to share our individual input, and by doing this we were able to see each other eye to eye and come to a compromise for our campaign.”

Digital technologies are electronic tools, systems, devices and resources that generate, store or process data. Examples include social media, software programs and multimedia.

  • You integrate digital technology in an ethical and efficient way into everyday tasks, problem solving and to accomplish goals.
  • You adapt to new and quickly changing technologies.
Competency Example
You integrate digital technology in an ethical and efficient way into everyday tasks, problem solving, and to accomplish goals. “Before this semester, when signing students in and out of the office, we would use a paper schedule. However, this makes the check-in/out process more difficult because the paper schedule did not account for changes that would occur throughout the day. Therefore, I helped switch the process to an online schedule that made tracking changes and working collaboratively an ease.”
You adapt to new and quickly changing technologies. “Starting a new job was daunting because it required using software that was new to me, such as Excel or Spreadsheets. But I took initiative to learn on my free time how to navigate through each of them.”

Leadership is the act of leading others, whether it is in an organization, office, department, team, class or in your personal life. There are many forms of leadership.

  • You recognize, utilize and support the strength of others to achieve common goals.
  • You organize, prioritize and know when to divide large tasks amongst multiple people.
  • You use interpersonal skills such as active listening to coach and develop others.
  • You understand and manage your own emotions and those of other people. You use empathic skills such as putting one’s self in another’s shoes to guide and motivate.
Competency Example
You recognize, utilize, and support the strength of others to achieve common goals. “Building a good connection with my team is key to achieving common goals. I try to know how everyone works and what their strengths are.”
You organize, prioritize, and know when to divide large tasks amongst multiple people. “I designate a time and duration for my tasks. I also know that it’s okay to ask people for help with large tasks that may seem impossible to finish within a certain time frame.”
You use interpersonal skills such as active listening to coach and develop others. “I think active listening is essential in communicating. In my experience as a mentor, I always try to incorporate this skill by visualizing what is being said. I respond with what my mentee expresses to me first with rephrasing what was said to ensure I understood it correctly, so that my response is relevant and constructed in a way that best reflects my thoughts.”
You understand and manage your own emotions and those of other people. You use empathic skills such as putting one’s self in another’s shoes to guide and motivate. “It can be really easy for me to see when a team member isn’t on board or wants to move in one direction when the others want to move in another direction. It’s important to me to understand what they are processing and why they’re thinking of something else. I then try to see if I can address it or incorporate it into the direction the team is moving toward.”

Professionalism is the behavior and attitude of someone in the workplace. Work ethic is the ideals of discipline and hard work that make up a set of values.

    • You acknowledge and learn from your mistakes with integrity and ethical behavior. You act responsibly with the interest of not just yourself, but the larger community in mind.
    • You understand the importance of non-verbal communication in a professional setting.
    • You consistently arrive on time, work productively with others, have a strong work ethic and manage your time well.
    • Unique to UT Austin students, you have taken or will take an Ethics Flag course that equips you with the tools necessary for making ethical decisions in your adult and professional life and that exposes you to ethical issues and to the process of applying ethical reasoning in real-life situations.
Competency Example
You acknowledge and learn from your mistakes with integrity and ethical behavior. You act responsibly with the interest of not just yourself, but the larger community in mind. “As soon as I realize something went wrong, I try my hardest to correct it within that time. If it affects other things in my work area, I let my coworkers know ahead of time, so it doesn’t negatively affect the completion of other tasks.”
You understand the importance of non-verbal communication in a professional setting. “Body language is important! Even when I’m feeling down or upset, I try to display friendliness in my body language and nonverbally through my tone and expressions.”
You consistently arrive on time, work productively with others, have a strong work ethic and manage your time well. “I have to set various alarms to ensure my punctuality. Something that helps me with being productive is finding one part of a task that I find most intriguing and interesting and getting motivation through that to give my best efforts in the work I’m doing.”

Career Management is the planning and active management of your own professional career.

  • You recognize and can explain specific skills, strengths, knowledge, and experiences you have that connect to the opportunity you want and your career goals.
  • You are aware of professional areas that have room for growth.
  • You have become familiar with the job search process and actively pursue opportunities.
  • You understand your strengths and weaknesses, know what you want and what you may need and take steps to advocate for opportunities in the workplace.
Competency Example
You recognize and can explain how specific skills, strengths, knowledge and experiences you have that connect to the opportunity you want and your career goals. “Whenever someone comments positively on my work, I note it down. We often scramble to think of our strengths and experiences but noting things down gives me ideas of what I am good at and helps me to know my specific strengths.”
You are aware of professional areas that have room for growth. “I am a very ambitious person, and at times my ambition can lead my goals spewed all over the place. I’ll have goals in so many areas that I become overwhelmed and won’t follow through on many. Because of this, I know I need more work in my time management, planning and organizational skills. “
You have become familiar with the job search process and actively pursue opportunities. “I always hear about good resources and benefits, but I think it’s important to realize the significance in actually taking action in doing research and networking into those resources. At my job in a career services office, I learned about many tools and resource. Because I took action to dive deeper in my research, I was able to tap into many job and career resources that I didn’t know existed.”
You understand your strengths and weaknesses, know what you want and what you may need and take steps to advocate for opportunities in the workplace. “I think of skills I want to develop or types of projects I would like to work on and talk with my supervisor to see if there is a way to incorporate them into my work. For example, my supervisor places an importance on professional development so I brainstorm ideas of projects or skills I would like to work on.”

Global and Intercultural Fluency is about understanding and respecting people with various opinions, cultures and viewpoints and to navigate differences in a respectful and accepting way.

  • You value, respect and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and religions.
  • You show acceptance, inclusiveness, sensitivity and the ability to interact respectfully with all people, and you understand and value individuals’ differences.
Competency Example
You value, respect and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and religions. “I believe it’s crucial to be educated on what diversity means and to understand concepts that surround diversity and inequity issues. Because of this, I make an effort to place myself in spaces that may advert from my norm. I go to cultural events outside of my own, attend info sessions and also volunteer in communities that are distinct from my own. I do this to learn about and from other cultures. I think stepping outside of my comfort zone helps me to gain a new perspective that simultaneously allows me to appreciate, respect and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, etc.”
You show acceptance, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and you understand and value individuals’ differences. “Having everyone together and respecting of one’s beliefs can make a positive difference in their work performance.”

Online Tools

Career Ready Guide: The Career Ready Guide is a self-paced, online career course inspired by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 8 Career Readiness Competencies. As you work through this interactive course you will find videos, reflective questions, checklists, case studies, deep dive assessments, action plans and chapter quizzes.

Career Spots Videos: Explore the career-related video content across five channels, including the Career Ready Channel that covers the eight competencies and how you can demonstrate your career readiness to employers.

Know what to say and why you want to say it

In the flurry of a job search, it can be easy to lose focus and overlook valuable stories, experiences or projects. It is important to know how to clearly talk about specific examples of these competency areas, so that employers understand and want the skills and experiences you have.

If you know why you want to highlight a particular skill or project, it will help you know when to mention particular experiences. Tailor your strengths and areas for growth to each position or opportunity. It is also important to know that your process may be different than another person’s. Lean into the many abilities you have honed and developed as a UT student.

Quick Tips

  • Use “I” statements
  • If talking about a group or office, be sure to come back to you and your specific actions
  • Include the WHO, WHERE, WHAT, WHY when possible
  • Add specifics whenever possible; instead of “class”, specify “English class”
  • Imagine someone asking “Tell me about a time when”
  • Try the STAR or PARL method to structure your stories

Next Step

Now that you’ve explored the competencies and identified some of the ways you have gained these skills, consider making an appointment with a career coach to help identify other competency-related experiences and articulate your competencies into a professional story for interviewing, networking and promoting your strengths and experiences.

About

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, an organization of employers and professionals from college and university career centers, created the eight career readiness competencies.