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|Career Readiness Offers Common Language for Graduate Students to Showcase Their Competencies|
By Neda Moayedi
In order to better prepare graduate students for their future careers, a common language is needed to translate their graduate education, skills, and experiences that will demonstrate their career readiness. Employers value candidates who have honed their career competencies, and those who can articulate how they have used their strengths, skills, interests and abilities.
As the Graduate Career Counselor in the Career Center at the University of California, Irvine, I work closely with graduate students across disciplines to help prepare them for multiple career paths – both inside and outside academia. In addition to conducting group and individual counseling, I design and develop workshops and programming to meet the changing needs of graduate students, employers and other stakeholders on a variety of topics including: self-assessment, career exploration, transferable skills, preparing for the job search process, and transitioning to the workplace. I support the discussion of multiple career pathways or “parallel plans,” which allows graduates to freely explore and be exposed to a variety of professional opportunities. One of the biggest challenges graduate students face during the career exploration and job search process is articulating their transferable skills or competencies.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) identified 8 core competencies which relate to the wide diversity of skills gained through graduate education. These competencies were developed after a task force of career services professionals and human resources/recruiting staff asked more than 600 employers, what skills they value the most when seeking the ideal candidate. Graduate students are perfectly poised to develop these competencies, essential to their professional success, while deepening disciplinary expertise throughout their academic training and scholarly endeavors.
Career readiness has the potential to positively impact the professionalization of our graduate students by providing a common language to articulate their transferable skills and competencies. For example, knowing what employers are looking for allows students to engage intentionally in collaborative opportunities (teamwork), step into leadership and advocacy roles across campus (leadership) as it relates to their desired career path. Part of acquiring these competencies is also recognizing any areas that are lacking, and then finding ways to augment their training in order to gain the necessary skills to be successful.
At our Career Center we have adapted the definitions from the NACE Career Readiness Competencies to provide a common vocabulary for students, faculty and staff:
1. Problem Solving: Exercise sound reasoning, analytical thinking, and inventiveness; use knowledge and data to solve problems and make decisions.
2. Communication: Show understanding of diverse needs of audience in order to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written, verbal, and non-verbal forms.
3. Teamwork: Collaborate and work within a diverse team structure; negotiate and manage conflict.
4. Leadership: Draw upon interpersonal and organizational skills to motivate and develop others to achieve common goals.
5. Technology: Select and use appropriate technology to solve problems and accomplish goals.
6. Professionalism: Demonstrate personal integrity, effective work habits, and a professional work image.
7. Intercultural Fluency: Value, respect, learn from, and interact with people from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, religions, nationalities, abilities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
8. Career Management: Identify and articulate relevant skills, knowledge, and experiences in pursuit of career opportunities; self-advocate and identify areas of professional growth.
We must continue our collective efforts to bring students, university personnel and employers together to ensure that the talents and value of graduate students are easily identifiable and marketable. It is clear that graduate students play a key role across campuses nationwide through their research, managing multiple projects, teaching classes, supervising, mentoring and coaching undergraduates, holding a variety of leadership roles and often times advocating for different causes. Career readiness provides the common language and empowers graduate students to articulate their value to employers in order to seize opportunities.
Neda Moayedi is the Graduate Career Counselor at the University of California, Irvine. She works directly with graduate students to help them discover their passions, career goals and assist in their career planning. She facilitates a variety of professional development programs tailored for graduate students. She comes with a unique mix of career counseling, academic and student affairs, and over 10 years of industry experience which enhance her interactions with students exploring diverse career paths. Neda is dedicated to the personal, professional, and career development of the graduate student population.