Overview of the Professional Competencies

Image of Professional Competencies as interlocking gears

In order to successfully apply for a job or graduate school program, you need to have acquired qualities, skills and background that are sought by your targeted field or program. Additionally, you need to convince recruiters that you are qualified for their position. The professional competencies outlined here provide you with an overview of the characteristics you need to be well-prepared for life after graduation. No matter what path you choose to pursue, you will be better prepared to seek work if you have mastered these competencies.

Get started! The time and effort required to master the competencies depends on your background, your class year, the clarity of your interests, and your goal itself. Some competencies, such as intellectual skills and marketable qualifications, are built gradually. To learn more about how we suggest students in your class year develop the competencies, see getting started. Begin chipping away at these early in college and you will be well-prepared to embark on your professional life.

Note that the Career Center offers guides to help you with many of these skills in our publications and tips through our student website. The links below are to online tools to help you assess how strong your competencies are today!

Professional Competencies that are ongoing, developed and practiced throughout college:

Intellectual Skills: The ability to think critically, to communicate effectively in oral and written form, to conduct sound research and analysis, and to use technology effectively; and the ability to clearly describe or demonstrate your mastery of these skills to recruiters.
Professionalism and Ethics in the Workplace: An understanding of and the ability to meet the work world’s behavioral expectations.

Professional Competencies that should be begun early because later competencies hinge on them:

Sense of Purpose: The ability to articulate your life goals and direction and how these might be expressed through an occupation.
Gaining Experience: The development of self-understanding and work skills through academics, work experience, internships, and extracurricular activities.

Professional Competencies that are career-specific, to be mastered once a goal has been identified:

Transferable Skills: The development of professional skills and knowledge related to your targeted field.
Strong Résumé: The ability to research the demands of the targeted field and to develop a document that demonstrates related and valued strengths.
Effective Cover Letter: The ability to identify the ways in which your background matches the requirements of the targeted field and to summarize your strengths thematically.
Effective Interview Skills: The ability to clearly describe your strengths relative to the targeted job or graduate school program to a representative of the organization.
Effective Networking Skills: The ability to interact and connect with other people to exchange information, develop contacts, and find career or graduate school opportunities.
Strategic Search Skills: The ability to plan and conduct an effective, sustained search for employment or graduate school admission.