Developing Professional Competencies as a Strategy for a College Career
Encourage your students to seek opportunities that will help them develop the professional competencies employers are seeking, regardless of major.

Phil Gardner is the Director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University and the international authority on career trends for college students. Gardner lists 10 über-competencies that are becoming essential to success in post-graduation employment. Here is where new careerists should invest efforts that will pay off, both immediately, in terms of job offers, and in the long run, having been groomed for management and advanced professional opportunities.

The critical Professional Competencies

  • Initiative
  • Build and sustain professional relationships
  • Analyze, evaluate, and interpret data
  • Engage in continuous learning
  • Communicate through persuasion and justification
  • Plan and manage a project
  • Create new knowledge
  • Seek global understanding
  • Mentor and develop others
  • Build a team

Unfortunately, there is no “Professional Competencies” major at BYU. But the University experience at its best develops these abilities through broad exposure to course work and University-facilitated experience. When students choose a major they are passionate about, and supplement it with professionalizing experience, they dramatically increase their marketability.

The thing is, many of our students are developing professional competencies, but either don’t know it, or at very least, aren’t sure how to talk about them to employers. In the Liberal Arts Advisement and Careers center, we integrate career and academic advising so students plan professionalizing experiences in parallel with their academic work, (taking major classes that will enhance the ability to contribute to a part-time job or On-campus Internship, and vice versa). Our vision is that all students will understand, articulate, and apply the value of their education, regardless of major.

Statistically, students who study what they love do better academically, graduate sooner, and have a better college experience overall. And in order to be competeitive right out of college, students need professionali competencies. If they major in something they are passionate about, be it Engineering or Spanish Literature, and integrate professionalizing experiences, they will be happier and have professional opportunity. BYU is a unique environment where students have access to quality education in both academics and professionalizing experience. There are English undergrads doing research in biology labs and Finance students working with German professors. Encourage your students to develop a strategy for gaining professional competencies through course work they can be excited about and experience that will launch them into a successful career.

Formerly an assistant dean in the College of Humanities, Dave Waddell is now the manager of the new Office of Experiential Learning.