Career Readiness, Key Competencies, and Global/Intercultural Fluency

By Roberta Attanasio, STEMM Leadership Editor

Writing for the World Economic Forum, Farnam Jahanian points out that “We are in the midst of a profound social and economic transformation that has been catalyzed by breathtaking advances in automation and artificial intelligence, and unprecedented access to data and computation. The impact of these technologies pervades nearly every sector of our economy, affecting a wide range of occupations across healthcare, finance, transportation, energy, manufacturing and beyond.” While some jobs will become automated and others will change significantly because of technology, new markets, industries, and jobs will be created—some of which we cannot even imagine today. Thus, learning should be seen as a lifelong endeavor for individuals at every stage of their career. 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

He adds that “21st-century students must learn how to approach problems from many perspectives, cultivate and exploit creativity, engage in complex communication, and leverage critical thinking. With a future of work that is constantly evolving, these non-automatable ‘human’ skills are foundational, and will only increase in value as automation becomes more mainstream.”

Such “human skills” are a substantial component of “career readiness“, which is defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers as “the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace”. The definitions of career readiness and competencies have been developed to ensure that new college graduates have the skills necessary to enter and become part of a strong, productive work force. There are 8 competencies, which are called key competencies. They are: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Oral/Written Communications, Teamwork/Collaboration, Digital Technology, Leadership, Professionalism/Work Ethic, Career Management and, last but not least, Global/Intercultural Fluency.

So, what is Global/Intercultural Fluency? It’s a competency exhibited by an individual that values, respects, and learns from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. The individual demonstrates openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences.

Global/Intercultural Fluency is fast becoming the definitive global skill in today’s interconnected world. It’s essential to succeed is increasingly international and culturally diverse environments, for example to present research or be involved in learning activities across cultures, speak with confidence to a variety of audiences, explain complex concepts clearly, and negotiate collaborations and working relationships across cultural, social, professional, and disciplinary boundaries. Science students and science professionals may be expected to be included in international research teams in which some group members may give feedback very directly while others prefer to communicate indirectly through implication, or they may contribute to interdisciplinary discussions and explain their research to colleagues who are unfamiliar with specialized technical terminology.

Although intercultural competence and “global awareness” are considered major educational outcomes, they are rarely taught explicitly, as it is generally assumed that students acquire them through experience. However, without guided reflection, experience is rarely sufficient for developing intercultural competence. Research suggests that students who have opportunities to reflect consciously on their intercultural skills, receive feedback on those skills, and develop a foundation of intercultural knowledge are better prepared to take on leadership roles in diverse groups. Thus, students should be supported in reflecting on the competencies they acquire through different activities and programs, and in becoming well versed in articulating the acquired competencies to potential employers.

Copyright © 2016-2020 STEMM Leadership


  1. Commonly, people speak of automation dominating most industries, but rarely is there conversation about the skills that need to be mastered to be highly employable during this age of automation. I appreciate how the article informs the reader of the human skills that will allow individuals to remain relevant in there respected industries and allow college students, like myself, to know what will make them attractive to employees. During my interview with a pharmacy manager, I inquired if she felt her career would be in jeopardy due to automation. She can see the pharmacy using more technology but does not feel robots replacing pharmacists would be a proper prediction. She provided the example of a robot determining the correct medicine for a patient compared to a human. The robot will have limited critical thinking and oral/written communication skills compared to human. When the patient is asking a recommendation for medicine for specific illness, the pharmacist needs to know symptoms a patient is experiencing as well as allergies so a robot may not be as accurate when deciding which active ingredients would be the safest and most helpful to the patient. Her example made a great case supporting critical thinking skills and communication skills are key competencies that will not become irrelevant because of automation. It was also refreshing to read about the new markets and careers automation will make available. Most articles I have encountered do not present that point of positivity.

    • Hello Marriel,
      This is a great comment and is something I didn’t even think about prior to reading this article. I can agree, it seems as though the author writes the article under the assumption that artificial intelligence will become the new mainstream and the ‘norm’ of everyday person to person contact will eventually become obsolete. The author basically assumes a ‘ Move it, or Lose it’ mentality that careers will now require a global/intercultural fluency in order to move along with the new society, or be lost essentially. I come from a minority background and am a female with an interest in a field of neuroscience that is mostly male-dominated, so I understand the importance and value in having a diverse and different voice and background for furthering the field of science for scientists in the world. Although I am indifferent on the claim that those that are not culturally or racially diverse are doomed to fail in society, I do wonder for those who dissent, what traits or skills then do they believe are essential then to survive in the potential new way of life?
      It is clear and evident that the world around us is changing and as we change and science changes we must adapt our style to a way that best conveys this information. The belief that artificial intelligence and technologies will soon run our world places a value on certain skills that are creative and different in the new world. However, if the world does not entail nearly as much robots as thought, then what qualities then will be valued?

  2. I was a college student in early 2000’s and now, 2020. People back then weren’t as ancient as the new generations think, and we haven’t progressed as much as it sounds. Back then, we used computers to write papers and to design. Things just became much more user friendly and simple that even toddlers can do what professionals do (watching Youtube videos or using smartphones). Things are just more available, and people are now much more dependent on technology than they used to like using navigation again to go to a place one has already been to. However, I am shocked from time to time when I take my kids to a dentist or a doctor’s office not because things are now so much better, but because things are still not better enough. I think we now need to focus more on collaborating people in different fields to design better medical equipment and machines and worry less about automation taking our jobs. I do see that people in academia trying different things, but the application has to go in hand in hand in the real life. I hope to see more changes in real life professionals workforce than just professors and students. A lot more things than we realize have to change due to lifespan and lifestyle changes. Professionals, CEO’s, leaders, and all important people must be willing take and learn different approaches to make a better future for all.

    • Hello Jane,

      Great response, I see where you are coming from about these technological advances that you believe should be made to healthcare equipment. I was born in 2000, so I do not know what it was like back in the day, but I know that it was not ancient. What are some types of technological advances that you believe should be made to healthcare equipment? An example that I could think of is an automatic blood pressure monitor. This machine could potentially be updated because I utilized these machines when I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a Nursing Home in 2016. I would take a patient’s blood pressure with the automatic device, and when the blood pressure would seem too high or too low, I would remeasure it manually, and the machine would be extremely inaccurate. I did not like using these automated machines because if I was to get an incorrect blood pressure then it would cause that patient’s plan to be messed up which would cause them to be administered medicines that they did not even need because of this simple error. It would be nice to hear what type of technological advances to healthcare equipment that you have in mind.

    • Hi Jane,

      I completely agree with your comment about the advancement of technology in healthcare. It seems to be that most improvements in technology apply to equipment that does not have the capability to improve one’s health and well-being. The technological equipment used in today’s medical fields tends to be not as accurate when it needs to be. A slight difference in the result can dramatically affect the care given to the patient.

    • I agree with all the above comments because I don’t believe that we need to worry about automation taking over our jobs. After all, there are certain people skills that we need to have in order to treat patients correctly that can never be replicated, which is why everyone is so focused on scientists building and having excellent communication skills. I watch a lot of medical television shows, and a lot of things that I notice about most of the doctors is that they don’t just ask the patient about their symptoms in order for them to make a diagnosis they also ask about their family history, their life history, what are some of their hobbies. They do this because they want to be able to see if they can connect anything they are doing in their daily life to their symptoms in order to form an effective treatment plan. Although technology can be of great assistance to us, I don’t believe that it can indeed take over for us.

  3. In the last paragraph you talk about reflection being critical for developing “global awareness”, I think it is important for developing any skill. Much like in looking back at a class nearing completion, reflection on any action is key to fully understand how and why you arrived at the destination you currently find yourself in. Looking back and analyzing the steps you took subconsciously and consciously, and how all of those pieces of the puzzle fit together is key to knowing what your next actions will be and (if for better or for worse) what the outcomes will likely be. I think many people could hone new skills and realize their strengths and weaknesses with reflection.

    • This comment made me think and look up the exact meaning of reflection in the USA and after thinking about it I agree 100% with your comment and thank you for writing so pleasantly and expressing yourself so graciously. I never thought of reflection as something we should do or think about but after reading the post and the comments here I started to “REFLECT”. I now see why my lab professor always asks for us to write in a journal I just didn’t know it was reflection. We have a lab journal where we write our challenges of the day and what we’re doing to overcome them but we don’t do that every day; let’s say about every week because we feel it’s an unwanted chore. Then about once a month we meet and we go over what we have written and compare and discuss our journal notes. Although we don’t appreciate much the writing part we enjoy the discussions based on the writings and we can relate to each other much better after that. I see now that the discussions are meaningful because we talk using what we have written in the journal. And that is reflection. I searched on how reflection is used here and it seems to be something that really relates to education and teaching but when I searched for this in the USA I found that is associated a lot with business development. Well I think I’m starting to understand that we’re actually lucky to be asked to keep a lab journal it will help me a lot just didn’t understand it until now and I also feel that by writing this comment I’ve done reflection and if we bring things together it seems it helps with teaching and with business.

  4. I like all comments above. I like them because they share excitement in knowing people that are from different countries and enjoying working studying and doing fun things together with them. I believe there is a major misunderstandings here, though. Intercultural competence is not understanding individual people form other countries, it is to understand people in the context of their country. You can be from NY City which is very international and your best friends living there are from Nigeria. But your best friends from Nigeria living there are used to the NY way of life and have taken on some of its habits. Then you go to Nigeria and you discover that you do not understand people in the context of their own country. It is too much of a simplification to think that knowing people from other countries makes you interculturally competent. It is the understanding of the other country and the people actually living there that does. At least this is the way I see it. I had many Indian friends for several years, but when I went to live there it took me more than six months to be able to understand Indians in India.

    • I think a lot of the differences between cultures will slowly erode overtime as long as the internet exists in the way it does today. Even today across a single country the younger generations all take part in many of the same video games and watch much of the same media. With enough time and access to the internet this could lead to many different countries with very similar cultures.

  5. When thinking of intercultural competency is not enough to believe that exposure to people of different backgrounds is all that is needed to achieve it. The problem is much more complex. You may think you relate well to others because everyone likes to keep things flowing nicely with others (at least most people do) and that could be the case, meaning you get along well with people from everywhere. Reality is the we’re all full of biases, despite knowing people from everywhere in the world, and if we don’t get rid of biases we’re not really interculturally competent. Problem is people are not aware of their biases, and while familiarity biases are probably easy to overcome when living in an intercultural environment, the other types of biases persist. I believe that before saying “I’m culturally competent” we should all show that we understand all types of biases and see them within ourselves, if we’re not able to see them within ourselves we cannot act to make them go away and then we live in the illusion to be culturally competent.

  6. Growing up in a very diverse environment has genuinely helped me home in on my Global/ Intercultural Fluency. Having a clear understanding of various backgrounds and cultures has been something that has helped me navigate through many of my friendships growing up because I grew up in a school with people from all over the world. I had the experience of bettering this skill because one of my closest friends in high school was Gambian. Understanding her culture and traditions allowed me to step outside of myself and know that we are all different, and we should respect each other enough to learn about different cultures. Honing in on this relationship and various other experiences has indeed been beneficial throughout my college career because it has helped me navigate my way through Georgia State, seeing as though it is a very diverse campus. Having Global/Intercultural fluency is essential in this arena because it allows you to still work with others from different backgrounds regardless of the language gaps, or cultural differences. After all, you’re able to communicate and know what’s right/ wrong and whether something is appropriate or not. Having this understanding is vital because when fostering relationships in a workplace with people from different backgrounds, knowing what to say, and what is harmful is essential in building that bond, and being able to work well together. I feel as though all though we as students truly need to have a clear understanding of other cultures, we have grown in an age of technology and diversity, and it isn’t as big as in issue that it might have been in previous years. For instance, my peers and I have opportunities where we can travel outside of the country and immerse ourselves in different cultures. Therefore we’re able to broaden our horizons and have a better understanding of Global/ Intercultural Fluency. Nonetheless, having this skill is truly helpful in all aspects of life because people come from all different backgrounds, and to work together and create new things, being able to have Global/ Intercultural Fluency is vital to getting things done.

    • Yes I agree that global/intercultural fluency is a very important skill and I’m happy I’ve been given the opportunity to know this blog and to comment on things that are very helpful to me. It’s very nice to put my thoughts in writing and read what so many other people think it makes me feel we’re all part of the same group, like a group of billions of friendly people that all live on different parts of the world. People maybe emotionally disconnected though and there is no really way to say we’re emotionally connected to other cultures. I hope that global/intercultural fluency is also emotional connection and someone else can say what they think about it and why it’s always only understanding of the others and it’s not the feeling of being one with the others.

    • Hi Chase,

      I agree with your prospective on the importance of global and intercultural fluency. I too have benefited from a diverse background at Georgia State since my matriculation through the university. Before being around peers who had a vastly different culture than I did I could only understand their behaviors and traditions through the literature I read. Once I was able to explore the background of the others firsthand through their stories and daily interactions I felt encompassed in the culture and found a greater appreciation. Aside from school this is definitely important when considering a career choice. Before an individual enters the workforce, they need to be prepared by having an unbiased and open-minded perspective on diversity and always be willing to learn. Because of the melting pot that exists in a multitude of careers it is vital to understand a culture and relate in some respects. As you mentioned, in order to genuinely foster networking and relationships with colleagues from different backgrounds you first have to want to understand them on a interpersonal level. Having this understanding will help groups of people become receptive to varying societal norms that others they work with encompass.

  7. If I didn’t have good Global/Intercultural Fluency, then it would be extremely difficult to work where I work. Even though I wasn’t born in another country I gained my global/intellectual fluency through work experiences and travel experiences. If you travel out of the country you’ll realize how people communicate differently based on what country you are in. You have to do your research and know the do’s and don’ts of where you are going to. One little thing you say in passing can be taken the opposite way depending on where you are, so it’s always in your best interest to be aware of these changes. This same awareness also applies for the workforce. If you are working with people of different nationalities, you should be aware what is considered respectful and disrespectful. I work with people from all over the globe from South America, to Lebanon and even China, and how I go about communicating with these people is different. For example, how I address my Chinese co-worker is a little different to how I would address my Peruvian co-worker. If you take the necessary time to figure out your global awareness with people, it can open up so many stories and new ideas for you, and I find it to be a very important skill in today’s workforce.

    • I agree with Michael’s post because in order to effectively work with people, it is important to understand how they communicate because people communicate differently depending on where they come from. Communication is key to any type of relationship not excluding the workplace environment. Some people are very direct and blunt in the way they communicate while others may be indirect. For this reason, it is very crucial to study and know your environment and the people in your circle. Understanding how people communicate will help in connecting with them better. For instance, when working in a diverse environment it is imperative to understand, for instance, that when someone is being direct to us, it does not mean they have something against us, it is just the way they communicate. Understanding this, will prevent us from taking what they say personally, which can help us to better connect and work as a team rather than as enemies. Not knowing this may create misunderstanding and miscommunication which negatively affects the productivity of work.I believe that is why it is important to be open, sensitive inclusive, and have the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences, as mentioned by the article.

  8. As an individual who has grown up in the age of opportunity, I believe that Global/Intercultural Fluency is something that has been instilled in both me and my peers just by virtue of the time that we are living and grew up in. I believe that I do very well exhibit the competency to value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures and races due to the fact that I am of Nigerian descent. In regards to an individuals age, gender, sexual orientation, and religion it has become norm to accept the differences in those who may be different from the “normal” way of things especially living in the south where some beliefs and ways of life are more heavily judged than others. I believe my peers and I do express a level of openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and have ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences again because of the times in which we live in and how we have seen the norm evolve over the last 10 years. Having this sense of fluency helps me be able to understand people for who they are and allows me to know how to better relate to individuals who are not like me. It also allows me to understand in what areas of fluency I do need to work on. Being globally and intercultural fluent is an advantage that some individuals may not have the opportunity to experience, so I take advantage of it because it allows me to be a more well-rounded person.

    • I like your perspective, I like you see that being global and interculturally fluent is an opportunity others may not have and I agree that it is very important to have the ability to interact respectfully will all people. I also agree with what said in some of the other comments above. I believe that to be “interculturally competent” people need to understand the way of living and behaving in other countries, and not only the people from other countries that may meet in their daily life. Moreover, when someone visits countries as a tourist, they don’t see the country and the people there in the same way that an expatriate does. When I really hear people talking about other countries, you know immediately the tourist type, and then you know who has been working and living there for sometime as an expatriate. Tourists bring back touriist ideas, and someitme these ideas feel like wishful thinking. The other thing is biases. Sometime knowing people from other countries without knowing the countries themselves may also reinforce unconscious biases and cultural stereotypes. People should check themselves for unconscious biases more than one time through the available tests. I think these are important tests to take and I recommend them to all my friends because I needed to take them. It has been eye-opening for me. I understood I was looking at my friends from other countries through the lenses of unconscious biases, because I was thinking of everybody from a certain country according to what I had learned from my friends from that country. I decided to travel more and stay in at least a few countries doing different short-term jobs for a few months instead of visiting as a tourist. When I’ll be able to do that then I’ll call myself “culturally competent”. Now I don’t assume that I know a population because I know only a few people from that population. You need to understand the culture of a place in the context of that place.

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