Prepare for your career, whatever that may be.
Like most students, you’ve probably chosen to attend Winona State to prepare for a future career.
The term “career” can mean different things to different people, including:
- getting a job after graduation
- continuing your education in graduate school or other programs
- honing a craft like creative writing, music performance, or art
- researching an academic discipline
- creating your own personal journey
At WSU, we use the term “career readiness” to describe the process of learning and practicing essential competencies that help prepare you for a successful life after college in your academic field, workplace, local community, or family.
These core competencies are not specifically tied to any individual major or career path. Every WSU graduate can develop career readiness through academic courses, guest speakers, club involvement, student employment, and more.
Being focused and engaged in your college experience strengthens your career readiness.
The core competencies framework helps create a common language when you speak with colleagues, faculty, employers, family, and the public about how the time you spent at WSU prepared you to be successful.
Competence is the ability to do something successfully. When it comes to your career, competency refers to the knowledge, skills, abilities, and strengths that make you a better employee and your workplace a better business.
At WSU, you’ll explore and develop your levels of competency across 8 core categories.
Whether it’s in the classroom, through clubs and co-curricular activities, or during internships and part-time jobs, there are many ways to prepare for your future career.
Critical thinking is the ability to assess, contextualize, and compare available evidence when you form a position on a complex issue.
It’s analyzing your own and others’ assumptions on a topic or situation. It’s also evaluating issues from multiple perspectives to address problems and solutions.
Communication is the ability to express thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively through writing or speaking. It also means that you can listen attentively and purposefully despite distractions.
You’ll need to communicate with a variety of audiences, from co-workers and supervisors to clients, customers, and other external groups.
You’ll also be able to verbally discuss and create reliable, succinct, and easy-to-follow professional documents. This includes every step: planning, researching, writing, editing, proofreading, and even designing documents.
Teamwork is the ability to work together with others closely to achieve the same outcome.
You’ll need to work well with people from multiple backgrounds and perspectives who bring a variety of specialized skills and knowledge to the task.
Building collaborative relationships in your workplace is important because you’ll:
- learn from other team members
- share knowledge, resources, and workloads freely
- help one another complete tasks
Digital technology competency is when you can use current digital technologies ethically and efficiently to:
- solve problems
- complete tasks
- accomplish goals
You’ll also be able to effectively adapt to new and emerging technologies.
Leadership is the ability to leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals. An effective leader can organize, prioritize, and delegate work.
You’ll need good interpersonal skills to coach others toward success.
Leadership requires empathic skills to guide and motivate a team. It’s also the ability to assess and manage your emotions and the emotions of others.
Professionalism is the ability to demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits.
You’ll understand how verbal and non-verbal communication affect your professional image.
Having professionalism means that you:
- show integrity
- demonstrate ethics
- act responsibly with the interests of the organization and wider community in mind
It also means that you learn from your mistakes.
When you can identify and talk about your skills, strengths, knowledge, and experiences related to a specific job and career goals, that’s career management.
It’s the ability to recognize and express areas where you need to grow professionally. It’s how you navigate and explore job options, then understand and take the steps to pursue opportunities.
Career management is also advocating for yourself and taking advantage of opportunities at work.
Community engagement is the ability to demonstrate commitment to respectfully collaborate across and within community contexts and structures.
You can connect and extend knowledge from your own academic study to benefit the greater community.
Global and intercultural fluency is the ability to value, honor, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions.
It also means to demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact with all people and understand individuals’ differences.
These 8 core competencies are based on a list from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Many of these competencies align with university-wide student learning outcomes.
Today’s world of work is constantly evolving through technology advancements, globalization, and workplace diversification.
To be ready for what awaits you, take steps to build the competencies you need to approach many challenges and opportunities.
Once you know the 8 core competencies, you need to identify your skills in each area.
A good way to start is by reflecting on your experiences in and out of the classroom. This will help you identify your strengths, knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal attributes as well as reveal where you have room to grow.
This mindful reflection can also help you be more confident in making and acting on decisions about your future.
Here are ways you can identify your competencies:
- Keep a career journal
- Study the position descriptions of your previous roles (e.g., worker, intern, volunteer, committee member)
- Read the learning outcomes for your classes, assignments, and co-curricular programs
- Participate in a performance review
- Research requirements for professions
- Take a career assessment
While it’s great to know your level of competency, you also must tell and show your skills to other people.
Communicate to your employers, admissions recruiters, and peers about how your competencies are valuable in the professional world.
It’s best to share specific, detailed examples that show how you transfer your competencies into new experiences and roles.
Here’s how you can articulate and demonstrate your competence:
- Create a resume, portfolio, and/or LinkedIn profile
- Network with professionals in your field of interest
- Create a business card that highlights your top competencies
- Interview (practice, practice, practice)
- Introduce yourself—try using an “elevator pitch”
- Pay attention to professional demeanor and visual appearance (e.g., non-verbal behavior, the way you dress)
- Intern and volunteer
You identified your competencies, demonstrated those skills, and learned how to explain them to others. Now it’s time to really strengthen your skills.
Knowing when and how to advance your competencies is an important part of your professional development.
Take the time to critically think about programs and activities where you can develop your skill set. This will help you make good, informed decisions about the next step in your career path.
These are some ways you can advance your competence:
- Pursue an advanced degree (MS, MBA, MA, PhD, MD, JD, etc.)
- Join a professional association or special interest group
- Take continuing education credits
- Become certified in a competence (e.g., WSU’s L.E.A.D. program)
- Take on a new role or responsibility
- Make a commitment to a year-of-service project
- Travel to a new place
WSU Career Services supports alumni and new students who are looking to make a career change.
How do you know if it’s time for a change? Here are some signs you’re ready for a new career:
- You dread Monday morning
- You feel unmotivated or bored in your job
- You do not see any potential for growth
- You discover passions for other things and feel pulled towards those areas
- You feel constant stress, and your physical and mental health are suffering
Career change is perfectly okay. Studies have found (PDF) that people may change jobs or careers around 12 times in their lives! It may just be a new position with the same organization, or something completely different—and that can lead to increased satisfaction, a more balanced personal life, a higher salary, and more.
Winona State offers many academic programs that are wonderful options for people looking to switch their career.
If you think you might be ready for a career change, connect with Career Services!