What Is Career Readiness?

Career readiness is a foundation from which to demonstrate requisite core competencies that broadly prepare the college educated for success in the workplace and lifelong career management.

For new college graduates, career readiness is key to ensuring successful entrance into the workforce. Career readiness is the foundation upon which a successful career is launched. Career readiness is, quite simply, the new career currency.

For higher education, career readiness provides a framework for addressing career-related goals and outcomes of curricular and extracurricular activities, regardless of the student’s field of study. For employers, career readiness plays an important role in sourcing talent, providing a means of identifying key skills and abilities across all job functions; similarly, career readiness offers employers a framework for developing talent through internship and other experiential education programs.

Career Readiness Competencies

There are eight career readiness competencies, each of which can be demonstrated in a variety of ways. Review a definition of each competency below as well as download supplemental materials to support and incorporate into your initiatives.

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NACE Announces the New NACE Competency Assessment Tool!

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Career Readiness: Competencies for a Career-Ready Workforce

Download the Definitions

Just Updated: Equity & Inclusion Competency

In response to member feedback, the Equity & Inclusion Career Readiness Competency has been updated to clarify the meaning and importance of this for early career talent.

The revised definition broadens the scope to address a wide range of inequalities, including those based on race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status.

Support materials have been updated to reflect the revised definition.

Career & Self-Development

Career & Self-Development

Proactively develop oneself and one’s career through continual personal and professional learning, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, navigation of career opportunities, and networking to build relationships within and without one’s organization.

Sample Behaviors

  • Show an awareness of own strengths and areas for development.
  • Identify areas for continual growth while pursuing and applying feedback.
  • Develop plans and goals for one’s future career.
  • Professionally advocate for oneself and others.
  • Display curiosity; seek out opportunities to learn.
  • Assume duties or positions that will help one progress professionally.
  • Establish, maintain, and/or leverage relationships with people who can help one professionally.
  • Seek and embrace development opportunities.
  • Voluntarily participate in further education, training, or other events to support one’s career.

About the Career Readiness Initiative

Development and Validation of the NACE Career Readiness Competencies

Development and Validation of the NACE Career Readiness Competencies

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NACE launched its Career Readiness Initiative in 2015 to address a fundamental need for new college graduates and the professionals who serve their career development needs and recruit them into the workforce: a shared understanding of what is needed to launch and develop a successful career, a common vocabulary by which to discuss needs and expectations, and a basic set of competencies upon which a successful career is launched.

An initial task force—made up of NACE members from both career services and university relations and recruiting—developed the career readiness definition and associated competencies. These were subsequently reviewed and updated by a task force of members in 2017 to reflect feedback from members who were using the competencies with students.

In addition, after the initial launch, NACE undertook work to identify behaviors that could be associated with the competencies, partnering with SkillSurvey to validate those behaviors.

In 2020, a member task force undertook to review and revise the competencies as needed, while NACE and SkillSurvey completed a key phase of its validation effort to identify sample behaviors. As part of its process, the task force drafted its recommendations for revisions and presented them to the NACE membership for comment. More than 300 members provided recommendations and comments. The resulting revised competencies reflect those member insights.

If you wish to reprint the NACE Career Readiness Competencies or definition, please include the following: Reprinted courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers