Are you Career Ready?

By Karen Caldwell, 17 August 2021

Don’t panic. The answer is likely “not yet”, but you’re already on your way… especially if you read on and try out the career readiness challenges.

We all want to be ready for change, and being career ready is really about lifelong, cradle-to-grave learning and development… with a twist.

Curious about what that means? Read on and try out a Challenge or two. Take the next step for your future – or current – career!

What does “career readiness” mean?

Career readiness means that you have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSA) to be successful in your chosen occupation – your career or profession. Another term for KSA is competencies. But what, specifically, are career-ready KSA, or competencies? Why do they matter? And how can you show that you have them?

Hard work and curiosity are good starting points.

Sweat equity works

One of my credos is, if you want the fruit, you have to climb the tree. For career readiness, that means you need to put in the effort – gain some sweat equity – for your chosen field and career. Channel your sweat equity with a focus on building solid career readiness competencies.

Begin with readiness for change

The only constant in life is change. Are you sick of the word “pivot”? Well, something tells me you’d better get used to it. Pivoting relies on adaptability and readiness for change, and success and failure in the work world depend on it.

Let’s look at some evidence.

CNN Business’s (2019) Julia Chatterley recently interviewed IBM’s Chief HR Officer, Diane Gherson, about some surprising findings from a worldwide survey and the head-spinning, rapid-fire pace of change for employers. The survey was run twice, first in 2014, and again in 2019. Over 5,500 executives across 48 countries participated and their responses indicate a major shift in the most sought-after skills for new hires. Adaptability – or readiness for change – came up over and over in the interview.

Seriously. A flexible mindset was more important to employers worldwide than technical skills.

Still, what I found most intriguing is how much employers’ views have shifted in a span of just 5 short years. Gherson points to the digital era and recent advances in automation, including artificial intelligence (AI) for the reason behind the changes. An eerie takeaway for me is that the interview itself happened before the global pandemic. Readiness for change is needed more today than ever before.

Challenge 1: Watch the brief (4m 25s) video and identify what employers are looking for nowadays. Get ready for some shocking statistics!

Careers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

If readiness for change and the ability to work well with others were the top skills employers were looking for in 2019, what lies ahead for us as we emerge from a pandemic? The World Economic Forum (WEF) calls our current era the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And work life is going hybrid – mixing brick’n’mortar with remote, online. Psychologist Dan Hughes outlines seven competencies (he calls them attributes) that will be in high demand in hybrid workplaces, based on the WEF’s Future of Jobs Report. Not surprisingly, three of the seven competencies refer to change: learning agility, digital dexterity, and change orientation.

This is good news, and employers seem to be drinking the same Kool-Aid as the WEF. As an example, we can look at the results from a recent 2021 study about liberal arts graduates. Just under 500 employers from tech, banking & finance, and manufacturing highlighted both depth and variety of knowledge and experience as top strengths of job seekers with liberal arts backgrounds.

Digging into the data, guess which competency was highest ranked? Presentation skills? Numbers & statistics? Team work?

Challenge 2: Check your guess in Flaherty’s (2021) Inside Higher Ed coverage of the 2021 study. Compare it to Hughes’ August 2021 article about the 7 attributes for the hybrid work world, and then think about the competencies that you already have. Trust me, you do. You’re not starting from scratch.

Taking stock: An Inventory of Competencies

The message is clear: degrees are helpful, but they’re not enough. You need to be able to perform in the modern workplace, and that workplace changes. Quickly.

Hopefully you found some peace identifying some attributes, or competencies, you already have, including readiness for change. Pat yourself on the back. You’re truly not starting from zero.

Now it’s time to map the way forward and build on your strengths. To do so, you need to identify the competencies you have, and those you need to work on. Let’s call it taking stock of your competencies.

Challenge 3: Take stock! Download the recently updated guide to 8 career readiness competencies by the experts at NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers). Not only does NACE define the competencies, but they also share sample behaviours. Carefully read about each competency and do an honest appraisal of your own level for each. That is, take stock, or an inventory, of your 8 career readiness competencies. This will help you to identify where you’re strong, and also where you can focus your learning.

The STAR Model: Showcasing your career readiness

At this stage (if you’ve been reading attentively), you have a good handle on:

  • The value of readiness for change,
  • What career readiness is,
  • How employers’ needs have changed in the past decade,
  • What employers’ needs will be in the future, hybrid work world, and
  • The 8 career readiness competencies identified by experts, including employers.

Hopefully, you took stock of your 8 NACE career competencies too. Now it’s time to get practical and concrete: let’s do something about our career readiness competencies. Enter the ever-useful STAR Model!

STAR stands for Situation (context) and/or Task (what you had to do), an Action you took, and finally what happened, or the Result of your action. It’s a way to describe and example and to illustrate your competencies. Rather than have you describe what you might do in a future situation, employers want to know what you’ve actually done in the past when you faced a problem, for example. You can (and should) use the STAR model to demonstrate your competencies in handling a tricky situation, for example, or collaborating to achieve a goal. In NACE career competency terms, these are critical thinking and teamwork respectively.

If you’re ready to put in some sweat equity and build on the stock-taking activity, begin with one of your strongest career competencies. Use the the STAR model to bring your competency to life and dive into Challenge 4!

Challenge 4: Write a STAR response about yourself! First, get a sense of what the STAR model is in more depth by checking out the Guardian’s “How to” Guide. If you’re a student or new to job-seeking, follow the steps shared by Career Design Consultant Ed Brodka in his LinkedIn article, What employers want and how to show you have it. Be sure to jot down any highlights and takeaways you want to use in the future. Most importantly, put pen to paper and create your own STAR example. You’ll be happily surprised with the outcome and better yet, one step closer to getting the career you want.

Tools of the Trade & Tech Competencies

Just because team work and communication have moved up in terms of priorities, it doesn’t mean that tech skills are no longer important to employers.

Modern workplaces are learning organizations. The global pandemic and other disruptions have shown us that we all will thrive when we have a cradle-to-grave or lifelong learning attitude. For over a decade (since 2007) Jane Hart has been researching the learning tools that are most commonly used in education, workplace, and personal learning.

Challenge 5: Check out the most recent findings of the Top Tools for Learning worldwide survey, and identify (1) the tools you’re skilled at, and (2) those you hope to use for your own personal, education, and career development. Create a STAR example to showcase one of your technology competencies and share it with someone. It’s great practice for seizing any and all opportunities to show how career ready you are!

Works Cited

CNN Business. (2019, September 6). IBM: 1.2 million workers will need training due to robots. [Video].

Brodka, E. (2021, July 20). What employers want and how to show you have it. [Post]. LinkedIn.

Flaherty, C. (2021, April 6). What employers want. Inside Higher Ed. 

Higgins, M. (2014, Mar 10). Using the STAR technique to shine at job interviews: A how-to guide. The Guardian Careers. 

Hughes, D. (2021, August 3). The seven attributes you’ll need in a world of hybrid work. Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). (2021, April). Career Readiness: competencies for a career-ready workforce. 

Schwab, K. (2016, January 4). The fourth industrial revolution: What it means, how to respond. World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum. (2020, October). The future of jobs report.

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