8 Competencies for Career Readiness – For International Students

Employers within the U.S. evaluate job applicants on holistic measures – a demonstration of skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities required to effectively transition into the workforce and successfully perform a job.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) outlines eight core competencies that employers seek in job applicants. Below you will find a sampling of competency development examples that may or may not pertain to you. They may remind you of your participation in a community service project, or your involvement in a club. 

1. Critical Thinking

Think about times when you have encountered unforeseen challenges when studying in the U.S. Or, as a college student you may have used critical thinking and problem-solving skills during school or a job on campus.

During your interview with a potential employer explain how you provided alternative approaches and solutions to a challenge and discuss how you will bring those same critical thinking and problem-solving skills to the workplace. 

2. Teamwork

Brainstorm how you contributed in a group for a class project, an athletic team, or a community service project. Show how you collaborated to achieve a common goal while putting your individual goals aside for the project.

It is important to demonstrate conflict management experience and indicate how you have used negotiation skills. Employers are searching for candidates who listen effectively, are empathic, and can navigate and diffuse disagreements.

 3. Professionalism

Consider how moving to a new country has shaped you. It may show that you take initiative and that you are self-sufficient. Perhaps you have been extremely flexible in adapting to various living and learning environments. Express how you will use that same resilience and hard work to adapt to a workplace. 

Have you taken on an internship? Worked on campus? Helped to lead a student organization? You will be able to elaborate on your experiences in this area in your professional documents.

 4. Communications

Do you speak multiple languages? Have you presented in front of a class? Served as a Teacher’s Assistant? Express ways that you have practiced speaking in front of an audience.

In addition to effectively conveying the spoken word, highlight your writing skills when possible. Consider ways that you can highlight your academic research, editing, and ability to synthesize information. 

5. Career & Self Development

Career planning is a life-long process. It is important to set attainable short and long–term goals for your future. Utilize UConn’s Center for Career Development’s services and resources to develop those goals during your academic years and beyond.

6.  Equity & Inclusion

Contemplate your experience as an international student.  You are exposed to day-to-day experiences learning about a new culture that will undoubtedly help you see things from unique angles. Perhaps you could explain how you have an innate interest in learning about new countries and an appreciation for cultural differences.

 Studying and working with people from different nationalities has helped you develop a sensitivity to cultural differences. Understanding diverse backgrounds, cultures, and customs is an asset in today’s global workforce.  

7.  Leadership

Do you have experience delegating tasks or assignments?  Have you motivated others?

It is important to take initiative in leadership roles to demonstrate how you have led a group effectively or have done so with others. You may have held leadership positions within an on-campus organization, as part of an athletic team, or during a class project. Be prepared to share with an employer your leadership skills, style, and outcomes or your involvement.

8. Technology

Employers are seeking candidates who have used software programs, databases, and applied technology in their day-to-day life. Have you designed a website, created a brochure, utilized spreadsheets, or written a blog, or newsletter? Certain fields will want to know that you can create reports, utilize Microsoft Office Suite and Google Suite, and/or code, program, and analyze data.

Track your Skills

During your experiences (professional, research, teaching, and volunteer) you have developed skills and competencies along the way.  Choose which you want to highlight on your résumé based on the position to which you are applying. Consider using a spreadsheet to track which skills and competencies you possess, where you used them, and where they might appear on your résumé. For example,

Transferable SkillsWhere utilizedPotential Wording on a Résumé
LeadershipStudent SenateUConn Graduate Student Senate, Vice President, 20XX-20XX
Collaborated with executive board, communicated to university leadership to advocate for graduate student rights and policy changes.
Project Management Lab ManagerUConn, Center for Clean Energy Engineering, Lab Manager, 20XX-Present
Manage four student workers in equipment set-up, overall lab safety, and experiment design.

Continuously Build on These Skills

As you review these 8 competencies determine if you need to develop or enhance any of them. You are encouraged to participate in experiential learning (internships, jobs, shadowing, etc.) and seek activities on and off campus that will help cultivate your skills and competencies.

For further information on career readiness and career competencies, visit UConn’s Career Readiness Page.

Photo courtesy of NACE

By Desiree Martino
Desiree Martino Career Coach | Pronouns she/her