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Careers Café

Cultivating your competencies

During the hiring process, candidates need to be able to communicate their competencies in their resumés and at interviews.


Defining your areas of competence takes time. Luckily, the University of Victoria’s career office has spent a lot of time generating some ideas that they’re freely sharing on their website.

Competencies are closely related to your skills. A competency is a set of skills and knowledge needed to perform a task. At a conference last week, UVic presenters Norah McCrae and Stephanie Gayler described the painstaking process they and their colleagues went through to identify and verify 10 core competencies, four cultural competencies and a number of program-specific ones.

It can be tempting to focus on program-specific competencies, but a broader range of employers will be interested in your strength in the 10 core competencies UVic lists. While lists like this aren’t comprehensive, they’re a good starting point for assessing some of your most widely applicable transferable skills, and for coming up with examples you might draw on for resumes, letters and interviews.

So, painful though it can be to take on the seemingly navel-gazing activity of remarking on your own competencies, why not start small and tackle one or two items on the list? Once you’re on a roll, work through the rest. Or move onto areas of competence that aren’t covered on these lists—and there will be plenty of them.

There’s also no need to start thinking in terms of competencies right away; working on one of their component parts—skills—can serve just as well at helping you articulate where you are and determine what you want to further develop. Jo VanEvery’s recent post on skills takes a look at the skills you already have and those that you want to acquire.

As she usefully points out, not all of your skills will strike you immediately, and they may even relate to traits you see as disadvantageous. Often, the skills that are invisible to you are the ones in which you are strongest.  Because they are your go-to skills, you might assume that “everyone” has those same skills. Whenever you’re puzzled that someone is impressed by something you’ve done, take the time to reflect.  You’ve probably drawn on skills or competencies that are more unique than you’ve previously realized.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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