Career Readiness


And why does it matter?

There are many ways to define and acknowledge the value of a liberal arts degree. Your liberal arts education is preparing you to be an active citizen, a smart consumer, an innovator, a problem solver, an analytical and critical thinker in all you do and in your many life roles. It is also giving you the sheer joy of studying, in depth, something you care deeply about. All of these outcomes matter. All of them are worth the time, energy, and money you invest. But if you’re like most students, one of the reasons you’re here in college is to prepare for a future career, whatever that may look like for you. And you want to be READY—career ready—when you leave here. 

Let’s break down this concept of career readiness, starting with the word “career.”

In the College of Liberal Arts, we recognize and support the idea that “career” means different things to different people at different times. For most college students, it means pursuing employment after graduation, usually in the form of a private-sector job but sometimes in nonprofit organizations, public service (government) agencies, the military, or related opportunities like AmeriCorps or the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. For some college students, “career” means pursuing additional education (i.e., graduate or professional school). For a small but growing few it means pursuing some sort of independent journey, like starting a small business or doing freelance work. Your “career” could be any one of these unique paths for you, and it can and undoubtedly will change, multiple times, over the course of your lifetime as you and the world around you evolve.

We define “career readiness” as developing—and then being able to convincingly demonstrate and articulate—ten Core Career Competencies that reflect the very essence of your liberal arts education. We have identified these competencies through exhaustive discussions with employers, graduate and professional schools, faculty members, U of M alumni, government agencies, and national career development organizations.

The core competencies are:

  • Analytical & Critical Thinking
  • Applied Problem Solving
  • Ethical Reasoning & Decision Making
  • Innovation & Creativity
  • Oral & Written Communication
  • Teamwork & Leadership
  • Engaging Diversity
  • Active Citizenship & Community Engagement
  • Digital Literacy

The Core Career Competencies not only define career readiness, they give you a practical framework to show your career readiness—to prove it—to prospective employers or to graduate school admissions committees. They also help you and your family see the liberal arts advantage, spelled out in tangible terms.

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