Whether you are an employer looking to hire someone or a person looking to be hired, it is all about competence.
Only 11 percent of employers believe recent graduates have the skills needed to succeed in their workforce, according to a recent Lumina Foundation report. Two-thirds of employers say recent college graduates may have the skills and knowledge for entry-level positions, but less than half believe recent graduates have what it takes to advance to higher-level jobsaccording to a 2013 survey conducted for the American Association of Colleges and Universities.
So what are the important competencies that candidates lack? At the top of the list are the three “Cs”: critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. Hiring officers seek candidates with good problem-solving skills, the ability to work in teams, and those who have good verbal and written communication skills. For “traditional” college graduates in their early 20s, most of their focus at school is spent mastering topic, not necessarily developing the three “C’s.” They may have degrees but not much experience. On the other hand, working adults who earn their degree later in life have many opportunities to hone these skills and lack a credential – a diploma – to be hired or promoted.
The new approach to higher education that’s taking place on campus and in boardrooms is called competency-based education. Under this model, students can receive credit for the knowledge and skills they already possess. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 87 percent of Americans believe students should be capable to receive college credit for knowledge and skills acquired outside of the classroom. Some schools, such as Excelsior College, are established leaders in this practice. Degree programs such as these define what students must know, have well-defined learning outcomes, and have a rigorous way of assessing whether students have achieved those outcomes.
How do job candidates, young or old, demonstrate topic mastery and competence? To get started, first evaluate and identify your unique combination of skills, values, and private traits. Research the job you are attempting to find and the hiring company. Think broadly and do not limit yourself to similar industries in which you may have experience, whether as an employee or a student intern. List the knowledge you have acquired and the skills you have developed.
“Once you know who you are and what you have to offer, explore and choose the education and career options that best suit you,” says Maribeth Gunner, director of career services at Excelsior College. “The key to selling yourself is demonstrating your ability to apply knowledge (competence), not just possessing it (mastery).”