12 Competencies Employers Want From College Grads

On Saturday, I attended the second annual Leadership Summit presented by the University of Oregon‘s Holden Leadership Center. My favorite workshop was titled “How leadership experiences can help you find a job.” I was very skeptical of this title as I’ve learned that many public relations and marketing employers value internships and jobs over leadership; however, the unexpected workshop format worked very well. The presenter Tim McMahon of the Center on Diversity and Community (CoDaC) and Teaching Effectiveness Program (TEP), both at the University of Oregon, has created an invaluable exercise based on the colorful publication “12 Essentials for Success: Competencies Employers are Seeking in College Graduates” from Michigan State University.   

He handed us a 12-row-by-three-column chart that you can make yourself:

In the first column, list each of the competencies in a separate row:

  • Working in a diverse environment 
  • Managing time and priorities 
  • Acquiring knowledge 
  • Thinking critically 
  • Communicating effectively
  • Solving problems
  • Contributing to a team
  • Navigating across boundaries
  • Performing with integrity
  • Developing competencies specific to a profession
  • Balancing work and life
  • Embracing change

You can view the 17-page PDF that explains these in-depth here.

Label the second column “your experiences” and the third “how you might strengthen.”

Tim explained the competencies and instructions to us, then asked us to fill out the chart individually. We discussed our findings with a partner, chose our two-to-four greatest strengths and weaknesses, then shared them with the larger group.

For example, I decided my greatest strength was “working in a diverse environment.” Under experience, I listed that I’ve worked and volunteered for International Student Association, International Student Orientation, and the American English Institute. I have also studied and interned abroad. Through my leadership in PRSSA, I’ve proactively recruited committee members who belong to groups underrepresented in public relations and interacted extensively with students from different regions of the country from me. Under what I might strengthen, I jotted down that I might become more familiar with the issues of people who are marginalized for reasons other than their race or geographic origin such as LGBTQ and disabled communities.

This exercise can guide what strengths to highlight in interviews and cover letters. It might also surprise you in where you can improve. You can include experience outside of leadership such as classwork, internships and work in this chart; however, I found during this exercise that almost all of my most impressive experiences are from student leadership. I suggest that all students do this, and if you’re a student leader, you may want to consider leading this workshop with your students.

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One Comment on “12 Competencies Employers Want From College Grads”

  1. Tom Huchko Says:

    NIce concise description of the program and your experice.


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