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Using competencies

At UVic, we use a competency-based model to help you understand your strengths and market your skills to land a job you love.

What are competencies?

A competency is a combination of your strengths, skills and knowledge.

You use them at work, school and in other environments, and can involve expertise that you already have. They are:

  • observable
  • measurable
  • transferable
  • based on performance
  • linked to the workplace, academic environment and other life experiences

Why use them?

If you can describe your competencies, you’ll have an advantage. You can describe them in:

  • applications
  • résumés
  • cover letters
  • interviews
You can also use them to further understand how your school, work and other experiences align.

Understand your strengths

Consider your past experiences to assess your competency development and you’ll:

  • identify your own competency level and employability
  • measure your progress towards your goals
  • improve the quality of your work

Plan your learning

Thinking about the competencies you’ve developed through your experiences can bring your learning to life. You’ll use workplace competencies in the classroom and you’ll be able to apply your academic knowledge to workplace projects.  

Showcase your abilities

Employers often ask competency-based questions during the interview process. This includes questions like:

  • talk about a time when you had a communication breakdown with a co-worker
  • give an example of how you’ve used teamwork to solve problems
  • describe an experience that demonstrates your strengths in research and analysis

If asked to give an example of when you had a conflict with someone at work, you could answer by telling the employer how you used your communication skills. You could talk about how those skills helped you resolve the conflict to everyone's satisfaction.

Core competencies

We focus on 10 core competencies valued by all employers and academic areas. 

They also align with the UVic Learning Outcomes and reflect the important connection between academic study and the world of work.

You understand yourself and are aware of the implications of your interactions with others. You show this competency when you:

  • act with honesty, integrity and personal ethics
  • recognize your personal efforts and the efforts of others
  • acknowledge diverse opinions and accept differences
  • manage your personal health and emotional well-being
  • take responsibility and demonstrate resiliency and accountability for yourself
  • plan and manage your personal time, finances and other resources
  • assess, weigh and manage risk in the face of uncertainty
  • recognize your strengths and areas for improvement
  • adapt to new environments and cultures

UVic Learning Outcomes:

  • ethical and professional reasoning and action
  • intercultural knowledge and sensitivity

You’re comfortable using a broad range of communication styles. You choose appropriate ways to communicate to different audiences in diverse situations. You show this competency when you:

  • communicate in a respectful tone and manner
  • listen actively and communicate effectively with others
  • write clearly and accurately in a variety of contexts and formats
  • listen and ask questions to understand other people’s viewpoints
  • communicate issues in a timely manner
  • are aware of and responsive to verbal and non-verbal communication styles
  • recognize cultural differences in communication
  • use effective cross-cultural communication skills

UVic Learning Outcomes:

  • effective written, visual and oral communication
  • intercultural knowledge and sensitivity

You’re able to think critically and gather, sort, store and use information to turn data into knowledge. You show this competency when you:

  • research and interpret relevant information from a range of sources
  • review, retain and apply ideas
  • demonstrate numerical literacy
  • evaluate the validity and bias of information
  • use gathered data to draw conclusions or to create new sources of information that can be shared with others
  • document your sources of information
  • use appropriate technology to find and process information

UVic Learning Outcomes:

  • critical evaluation of qualitative and quantitative information
  • critical management of information, including in digital environments
  • numerical literacy

You use information from a variety of sources—including personal experience and observations—to identify and solve problems. You show this competency when you:

  • recognize the human, interpersonal and technical sides of a problem
  • access, analyze and apply knowledge and skills from various disciplines
  • think critically and strategically
  • apply knowledge and skills from past experiences to new situations
  • assess situations and identify problems
  • explore possible solutions in an innovative and creative way
  • evaluate solutions to make decisions

UVic Learning Outcomes:

  • critical, innovative and creative thinking
  • critical evaluation of qualitative and quantitative information
  • inquiry, analysis and problem solving

You plan, implement, manage and measure projects and tasks in a timely and directed manner. You put this competency into practice when you:

  • plan and carry out projects with well-defined goals and outcomes
  • determine appropriate implementation strategies, tools and technologies
  • adapt to changing work priorities and workplace practices
  • use a range of assessment techniques to monitor a project or task
  • establish priorities to meet deadlines
  • carry out multiple tasks or projects at the same time

UVic Learning Outcomes:

  • inquiry, analysis and problem solving
  • critical, innovative and creative thinking
  • critical management of information, including in digital environments
  • ethical and professional reasoning and action

You work cooperatively and collaboratively with others to achieve collective goals. You show this competency when you:

  • work within the dynamics of a group
  • show commitment to the team’s purpose and goals
  • accept and provide feedback in a constructive and considerate way
  • share information and encourage others to do the same
  • support and motivate the group to perform at its best
  • recognize the role of conflict when appropriate
  • build professional relationships
  • show accountability to the team and follow through on your commitments
  • work effectively with different personalities across a variety of social and professional situations
  • consider diverse, cross-cultural perspectives and working styles 

UVic Learning Outcomes:

  • collaboration and the ability to work in teams
  • ethical and professional reasoning and action
  • intercultural knowledge and sensitivity

You take pride in your work and strive for excellence to achieve the best possible results. You show this competency when you:

  • look for opportunities to improve your work practices
  • generate ideas for improvement
  • pay attention to the quality of your work
  • persist when difficulties arise
  • try innovative ways to get things done
  • consider situations from new perspectives
  • evaluate work results for effectiveness

UVic Learning Outcome:

  • ethical and professional reasoning and action

You use sound judgment to meet or exceed workplace guidelines, standards and expectations. You show this competency when you:

  • follow workplace policies (e.g. health and safety, equity, harassment and confidentiality)
  • recognize your rights and responsibilities
  • respect federal and provincial laws related to workplace policies and procedures
  • abide by the standards of practice recognized in your field
  • take responsibility to understand and adapt to workplace culture

UVic Learning Outcomes:

  • ethical and professional reasoning and action
  • informed civic engagement and understanding - from local to global

You recognize how your beliefs, ethics and actions fit within the context of a greater community. You show this competency when you:

  • know your personal convictions and strive to put them into practice
  • accept responsibility for your own actions
  • show a respect for others’ rights and diverse ideas
  • demonstrate personal, professional and academic honesty
  • choose ethical courses of action
  • contribute to your local, national and international community
  • build equitable relationships
  • consider the broader implications of your decisions
  • evaluate ethical aspects as part of decision-making
  • act responsibly in accordance with sound principles of sustainability

UVic Learning Outcomes:

  • informed civic engagement and understanding - from local to global
  • ethical and professional reasoning and action
  • intercultural knowledge and sensitivity

You acquire and apply new knowledge and skills in all of your experiences. You show this competency when you:

  • set and pursue personal and educational goals
  • identify and access learning sources and opportunities
  • show a willingness to continuously learn and grow
  • learn from your mistakes and successes
  • seek and accept constructive feedback from others
  • stay current with techniques and technologies in your field

UVic Learning Outcome:

  • life-long learning

Cultural Intelligence competencies

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the ability to work well in a wide range of cultural environments and contexts.

UVic co-op and career uses the Cultural Intelligence Centre’s CQ framework, which includes 4 main areas:

  • CQ Drive: you have an interest and confidence in functioning effectively in culturally diverse settings
  • CQ Knowledge: you understand how cultures are different or similar
  • CQ Strategy: you know and understand how to plan effective intercultural interactions
  • CQ Action: you recognize and adapt to cultural nuances and are flexible

Learn how you can develop your CQ.

Program competencies

These are the knowledge, skills and strengths that are valuable in your specific program area—from microbiology to mechanical engineering to music and everything in between.

Learn how to understand and describe your program-specific competencies.

Professional competencies

These are skills, knowledge and attributes that are specifically valued by the professional associations, organizations and bodies connected to your future career.

Learn what skills you'll develop in your career.

Describe your skills

Understanding your competencies can help you market yourself to employers.

Step 1: Identify an experience

Choose one experience at a time to work on. Pick an experience that has allowed you to develop your competencies. Note down relevant information about the experience.

Step 2: Identify and assess competencies

Think about what you’ve learned from your experience. Which competencies did you most strongly develop or demonstrate through this experience? Choose 3 or more of the 10 core competencies and consider including 2 or more program-specific competenciesCultural Intelligence (CQ) competencies or professional competencies.

These descriptions will help you rate your competencies:


  • have an overall mastery of this competency
  • understand and demonstrate it in all areas of your life
  • considered to be a role model by others and regularly exceed expectations
  • work is very high or exceptional quality and has a significant impact


  • reached your overall goals and often think about opportunities to use and practice this competency
  • consistently meet the expectations of yourself and others
  • consider your learning and appreciate the significance of this competency in relationship to your experiences
  • demonstrate high-quality work that has a positive impact


  • demonstrated this competency and think about how to develop it further
  • engaged in conversations with others about how you can best contribute and how this competency is important
  • actions usually meet the expectations of yourself and others
  • looking for opportunities to apply this competency in other areas of your life


  • starting to find opportunities to work on this competency
  • making initial assessments of role expectations
  • understanding the limited impact of your actions
  • actions meet some performance expectations but you know that you could improve

No demonstrated achievement

  • You are aware of information, ideas and situations related to this competency but have not yet had an opportunity to practice it.

Once you’ve chosen a rating, include 2-3 examples of how and when you’ve demonstrated competence. Then answer the following questions for each competency:

  1. Where and how have your experiences demonstrated competence?
  2. Why have you chosen your competency rating?
  3. What are your competency gaps?
  4. How will you address these gaps in the future?

View a sample assessment for more context and then complete your competency assessment.

Step 3: Write competency statements

Write a set of statements that describe the competencies you’ve developed and demonstrated through this experience. Remember that a competency includes skills, knowledge and attributes. Competency statements are best expressed in terms of visible behaviours and often begin with an action verb.

Avoid making a statement that could describe anyone. Examples of statements to avoid include:

  • I’m experienced in sales
  • I wrote reports
  • I provided customer service
  • I was responsible for handling complaints

Instead, give specific examples and give context for your statements.

Step 4: Reflect on your learning

Review your competency statements and think about what you’ve learned.

  1. Which competencies did you develop the most?
  2. Where are the gaps in your competency development?
  3. Which competencies do you feel most confident and motivated to use?
  4. Which are you most interested in developing further?
  5. What other thoughts do you have about this experience?

Step 5: Communicate your competencies

Use your competency statements as you develop content for your résumés and cover letters. Use them as briefing notes to help you prepare for:

  • interviews
  • informational meetings
  • performance reviews
  • other conversations with people in your professional network

View a sample competency assessment.