Everyone has a learning curve when it comes to adjusting to the workforce and understanding and managing an employer's expectations, no matter if you are a recent graduate or a mid-career professional.
So how do you determine if you are "career ready"? Your career preparation and readiness can vary based on who you are, your career goals, the jobs and fields that you're interested in, and the company you work for. However, there is a general set of Career Readiness Competencies, based on survey results from hundreds of large and small organizations nationwide, that all employers seek. These competencies focus on eight key areas that employers across all fields and industries have identified as the most important for a person to experience workplace success. They are meant to be continuously worked on and developed no matter where you are in your career.
Before developing a plan for working on your career readiness, take this Career Readiness Assessment. This tool will help you determine your level of career readiness, and identify areas you want or need to work on.
Professionalism in the workplace can take on many forms, including taking responsibility for assigned tasks and displaying effective work habits (e.g. being on time, working well with others, completing work on time). It also includes abiding by workplace policies, maintaining positive relationships with colleagues, and being receptive to constructive feedback.
There are many ways you can develop your professionalism in the workplace including knowing about policies ahead of time (don’t wait for someone to tell you that you’re doing something wrong), knowing how you define being a professional and living up to that standard, and maintaining an openness to trying things different ways.
Professionalism / Work Ethic Competency Resources:
You can exemplify your ability to think critically and solve problems in many ways. In its most basic form, having a strong competence in this area means you are able to analyze a situation and make a decision that leads to a solution. Sometimes the solution is one that has been tried before and you are using previous experience to know it will work in the current situation, and other times it is a brand new idea that you are testing out for the first time.
These types of skills are developed in a variety of settings from the classroom to the workplace, and many stops in between. Those who are most effective at thinking critically and solving problems attribute it to having an ability to pay close attention to information, ask relevant questions, and stay organized. You can continue to work on these skills in many ways including journaling, using mind maps to visualize situations/solutions, and even playing logic games.
Critical Thinking / Problem Solving Competency Resources
Being able to articulate your thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written, verbal, and visual forms to persons inside and outside of the organization is one of the most important competencies when it comes to career readiness. Companies often require large amounts of interaction among co-workers, departments, and outside parties. There are many ways you can work on your communication skills, including being able to identify your audience, learning to proofread your work, and understanding how nonverbal behavior can impact your message.
Communications Competency Resources:
It is rare to find a career that does not require some amount of teamwork and collaboration with others. Although more prevalent in certain jobs and industries than others, there will be many instances where you may find yourself needing to work with others in order to accomplish a task. Building and maintaining collaborative relationships with others, as well as being able to work through conflicts, is a vital competency to your overall workplace and life success.
There are many ways you can develop your teamwork/collaboration skills both in and out of a professional environment. It is important to keep open communication, be a good listener, trust in others abilities to accomplish tasks, and understand individual responsibilities.
Teamwork / Collaboration Competency Resources:
This competency may seem fairly straightforward. Know how to use the appropriate technology in order to get your job done. And for the most part, that’s your goal here. However, every industry can have varying technology needs. Sometimes it even varies from company to company. In addition, you need to be aware of emerging trends in technology and find ways to stay adaptable and knowledgeable about these trends. Technology often evolves quickly, so companies look for those who can stay on top of these changes.
There are many ways you can develop your technology skills including seeking out training offered through a company, by an independent source (and possibly paid for by your company), as well as industry publications that highlight current/emerging trends.
Digital Technology Competency Resources:
Leadership can take many forms. While most think of leaders as those who are officially placed in positions of power, there are plenty of people who lead from behind the scenes. To be an effective leader in the workplace you must not only know how to leverage others’ strengths and prioritize and delegate work but also how to use interpersonal skills to coach, develop, guide, and motivate others. You may not always be in an official leadership position but you can always be working on these skills that foster positive interaction among others.
There are many ways you can work on your leadership skills, including developing your communication ability, being trusting in the capabilities of others, taking responsibility for your work, and being flexible in accomplishing tasks. Leadership skills can be developed in a variety of settings, from your one-on-one interactions to large group settings.
Leadership Competency Resources:
It’s a big wide world out there! As with the importance of developing professionalism and teamwork competencies, it is just as important to learn how to value, respect and work with others from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. In today’s diverse, global workplace, there is more and more collaboration among vastly different companies and employees, which makes it vitally important for you to be able to show an ability to be open and sensitive to those who may have different backgrounds.
Ultimately, companies seek employees who can interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences. There are many ways you can develop these skills, including taking on opportunities to work with people you haven’t worked with before; getting involved in multicultural and related groups and activities at work; engaging in training opportunities in this area; traveling, both domestically and abroad, whether for work or pleasure; learning about resources to help you understand different cultures; and more.
Global/Intercultural Fluency Competency Resources:
Career management is one of the most important competencies for an individual to have, and it is the one that most people struggle with. In a way it is the most important as it encompasses all the others. It involves being able to identify and articulate your skills, strengths, knowledge, and experiences relevant to your career goals. It also involves being able to identify areas you want/need to focus on to continue to realize professional growth in relation to your career goals, such as proactively finding new positions to pursue and knowing how to self-advocate for opportunities.
All of the competencies reviewed herein are skills that relate to career management. They can be specific to industries you’re interested in or competencies you have developed for your own career path, but they might also be transferable to other industries and areas of interest. As you navigate your way through your professional career, it is important to continuously take stock of skills you’ve developed, are currently working on, and interests that you have. Many people will change jobs, and even careers, throughout their life. Being able to see what skills you bring to the table, no matter the path you follow, will help make those twists and turns and transitions much smoother.
Career Management Competency Resources:
For students, thinking about developing these career readiness competencies can seem daunting. Review the Career Ready videos from CareerSpots to hear frequently asked questions from students and answers from leading industry experts.