• Career Readiness Defined


    NACE defines career readiness, identifies key competencies


    The career readiness of college graduates is an important issue in higher education, in the labor market, and in the public arena. Yet, up until now, "career readiness" has been undefined, making it difficult for leaders in higher education, work force development, and public policy to work together effectively to ensure the career readiness of today's graduates.

    The National Association of Colleges and Employers, through a task force of college career services and HR/staffing professionals, has developed a definition, based on extensive research among employers, and identified seven competencies associated with career readiness. (Details about the research are available here.)

    Definition of Career Readiness and Competencies


    Career readiness is the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.


    These competencies are:

    • 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.
    • Information Technology Application: Select and use appropriate technology to accomplish a given task. The individual is also able to apply computing skills to solve problems.
    • 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.

    Using the Definition and Competencies

    Career Readiness for New College Graduates Fact Sheet


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    How do the definition and competencies help those focused on ensuring new college graduates have the skills necessary to enter and become part of a strong, productive work force?

    The definition and competencies provide for development of strategies and tactics that will close the gap between higher education and the world of work. They lay the foundation for the work necessary to prepare college students for successful entry into the work force by:

    • Providing a common vocabulary and framework to use when discussing career readiness metrics on campus, within employing organizations, and as part of national public policy.
    • Establishing defined competencies as guidelines when educating and advising students.
    • Establishing defined competencies to identify and assess when hiring the college educated.

    Looking Ahead

    NACE, through its Career Readiness Tool Kit Task Force, is currently developing two Career Readiness Tool Kits—one for use among career services professionals, who help students prepare for entry into the work force; the other is designed to help employers assess the career readiness of potential employees. They will enable users to apply the established competencies through the normal course of business in meaningful ways. The Tool Kits, however, have broader usability and can inform the work of administrators, faculty, and public policy makers.

    Materials being considered for the Career Services Tool Kit include:

    • Career readiness curriculum examples
    • Best practices for building career readiness into curriculum
    • Assessment tools for co-curricular activities.
    • Survey for employers interviewing students on campus to assess core competencies
    • Guided learning questions for each of the competencies

    Materials under consideration for the Employer Tool Kit include:

    • Example of badges/certificates
    • Interview guide for employers, featuring behavioral-based and case questions for career readiness competencies
    • List of assessment tools to assess core competencies
    • Best practices for how employers develop competencies before and after employment

    The Tool Kits will be released in summer 2016.

    Thank you to our NACE Career Readiness Task Force for extensive research among employers and for identifying and defining seven competencies associated with career readiness.