Completing an internship is a pivotal step towards professional growth, enabling you to acquire the 8 NACE competencies that are highly sought after by employers. Whether you are still deciding what degree to enroll in, are in university, or already trying to enter the workforce, these 8 competencies are essential for success in any field. Internships provide a hands-on learning experience, allowing you to apply these skills in a real-world setting, ensuring you are career ready.
What is career readiness?
In today's competitive job market, career readiness is essential for success. According to the National Associations of Colleges and Employers (NACE), career readiness is “a foundation from which to demonstrate requisite core competencies that broadly prepare the college educated for success in the workplace and lifelong career management.”. In short, it is a set of skills and attributes that show you are a valuable asset to any employer.
These can be categorized into three areas:
Technical skills: The specialized knowledge and abilities required for a particular job or career field.
Soft skills: The interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that enable you to work effectively independently and with others.
Career management skills: The skills needed to develop a career path through goals, network, and personal brand.
There are many ways in which you can increase your career readiness, for instance:
By focusing on these key areas, you can enhance your grasp of the NACE competencies, making you career ready and increasing your chances of success in the workplace.
What are the 8 NACE Competencies?
There are 8 key skills you need to develop to be successful in any career, according to NACE. These competencies were discovered through extensive research involving employers, educators, and experts to determine not only what skills are most attractive to employers but also the characteristics that made an employee stand out.
Internships are one of the most effective ways to acquire and demonstrate these skills, so let’s dig deeper into what these core competencies are and how an internship can help you acquire them…
Career and self development
NACE describes this core competency as being able to: “Proactively develop oneself and one’s career through continual personal and professional learning, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, navigation of career opportunities, and networking to build relationships within and without one’s organization.”
An internship provides a unique platform for career development, allowing you to delve into the real-world intricacies of your industry. Not only is this a chance to make connections with possible mentors, but you will also be facing new challenges that will highlight your existing strengths, what you need to improve. The insider insights of an internshipThis can also help you decide which parts of your industry you want to explore further. Take advantage of it!
NACE states that to have this core competency, you must be able to: “Clearly and effectively exchange information, ideas, facts, and perspectives with persons inside and outside of an organization.”
During an internship, there are innumerable ways in which you will hone your written and verbal communication skills. Interpersonal communication will take place not only with your colleagues and superiors, but also with clients, providers, and even potential future employers. You will receive and give guidance, feedback, and constructive criticism from and to your supervisors, colleagues, and even sometimes other interns! It is possible that some of them will have a different background, so you will probably cultivate your cultural sensitivity too.
To have this NACE core competency, you must demonstrate that you can: “Identify and respond to needs based upon an understanding of situational context and logical analysis of relevant information.”
Internships place you in dynamic environments when you will often be required you to adapt based on changing information, as any real work situation. Considering long-term goals, identifying potential challenges, and devising effective strategies will become second nature to you. You will learn to think on your feet, consider alternative points of view, and draw tangible conclusions based on research, evidence and analysis. This skill will be highly valued by employers seeking individuals who can tackle complex problems and make informed decisions.
Equity and Inclusion
NACE describes this core competency as being able to: “Demonstrate the awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills required to equitably engage and include people from different local and global cultures. Engage in anti-racist practices that actively challenge the systems, structures, and policies of racism.”
Internships provide a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a diverse workplace where you will be exposed to alternative perspectives and individuals from various backgrounds. This exposure will teach you to expand your point of view and develop an appreciation for the key insights that different perspectives bring. You will deepen your understanding of others and grow a tolerant heart, which ultimately enables you to cultivate a more inclusive and respectful work environment.
To have this NACE core competency, you must demonstrate that you can: “Recognize and capitalize on personal and team strengths to achieve organizational goals”
Internships are not only about following orders and doing the tasks that you are assigned, they are an arena to develop your leadership skills. You will demonstrate leadership potential by taking ownership of your work, identifying and solving problems, and being an active contributor to team goals. You will also learn about emotional intelligence and self-awareness by managing your own emotions through various situations. Lastly, you will become adaptable and flexible as challenges evolve and you gain more problem solving skills. These are all qualities a successful leader shows!
NACE states that to have this core competency, you must: “Know work environments differ greatly, understand and demonstrate effective work habits, and act in the interest of the larger community and workplace”.
Internships are not the same as being in school, they are a stepping stone into the professional world. You need to always put your best foot forward, look professional and, most importantly, be reliable. You need to take the initiative to demonstrate your commitment to the task at hand, collaborate effectively with others, and contribute to an overall success.
This NACE core competency is described as being able to: “Build and maintain collaborative relationships to work effectively toward common goals, while appreciating diverse viewpoints and shared responsibilities”.
Effective teamwork is the cornerstone of success in any workplace and it puts so many of the other skills into practice. For instance… Can you work with someone who thinks differently than you (equity and inclusion)? Can you convey your ideas effectively (communication)? Can you address issues proactively and politely (professionalism)?
Working with someone whose strengths complement yours is ideal! On the other side, a true achievement is working with someone you would not get along with, and still deliver results. Internships provide a platform to collaborate with colleagues from different backgrounds, learning to appreciate diverse viewpoints, and shared responsibilities. You'll hone your teamwork skills and contribute to a harmonious work environment.
To demonstrate this NACE core competency, you must: “Understand and leverage technologies ethically to enhance efficiencies, complete tasks, and accomplish goals.”
In today's digital age, technological proficiency is essential for success. Internships allow you to put your technical knowledge to the test and apply it practically. Every industry is embracing technology, some organizations quicker than others. On an internship, you will experience working with new tools, be in the loop with industry trends, and adapt your know-how to evolving requirements.
Take the next step to become career ready
Now that you know what the key skills are to become more employable, it’s time to take the next step. An internship will help you to acquire these essential skills, enhance your career readiness, and gain invaluable hands-on experience. Apply to an in-person or remote internship today!