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The Six Professional Competencies

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Professional competencies are knowledge, skills, and abilities that will equip you for success in the workplace and lifelong career management.

These competencies are:

Interrelated - you may see similar language under different competencies, or think they could be organized in different ways. That’s OK!

Non-linear - explore competencies in any order, and choose which ones to spend more time developing, based on your own needs.

Transferable - relevant no matter your degree, discipline, or career goals.

Developing professional competencies is a lifelong process. You are likely already developing many of these through your coursework, research activities, internships, or volunteer experiences.

There are many opportunities throughout Stanford to help you grow and develop your knowledge, skills, and abilities - this is where the Grad Grow search tool can help!




  • using planning techniques to write effectively
  • using effective strategies and terminology to frame and communicate one’s work for impact with academic, interdisciplinary, and non-academic audiences (e.g., policy-makers, the public)
  • using informative visual and narrative representations to communicate about themes and findings in data

Speaking & Presenting  

  • expressing yourself persuasively in situations such as courses, job interviews, conferences, and dissertation defenses
  • using storytelling, narrative, visuals, and multi-media to build and deliver engaging and compelling presentations

Interpersonal Communication

  • communicating effectively and authentically with others in a variety of educational and professional settings, with awareness of how communication norms may differ
  • developing awareness of one’s own and others’ feelings, perceptions, and behaviors, and how these influence communications
  • listening, and giving and receiving productive feedback for change

Teaching & Mentoring

Teaching & Mentoring

Course & Training Design

  • developing syllabi, agendas, lesson plans, and learning outcomes for formal courses, informal teaching settings, and online learning environments
  • developing content and instructional approach aligned with learning goals
  • using strategies to meet the needs of a diversity of learners

Pedagogy & Assessment

  • setting norms and using inclusive practices to foster equitable access and participation by all members of the learning community
  • implementing teaching techniques appropriate for learning goals, such as lecturing, hands-on activities or labs, facilitating, demonstrating, leading discussions, and coaching
  • assessing learners’ understanding and attainment of learning goals; using feedback for continuous improvement 
  • applying educational and collaborative technologies that foster learning and prepare learners for professional environments
  • reflecting continually on one’s own pedagogical practices through feedback from students, peers, and mentors


  • developing empowering relationships through active listening and fostering a growth mindset
  • supporting mentees in finding resources, connecting with supportive communities, solving problems, getting the most out of mentoring
  • mentoring across differences in experiences, skills, social identities, values, goals, and motivations
  • focusing on mentoring the next generation of professionals in your field, and sponsoring and supporting their career development



Academic & Research Integrity

  • understanding principles, policies, and practices concerning academic integrity, such as honesty, authorship, collaboration, and attribution of credit
  • understanding principles, policies, and practices concerning research ethics, such as promoting truth, minimizing error, human subjects protections, animal care and use, compliance with public health and safety regulations, fairness in intellectual ownership, protection of intellectual property
  • understanding the ethical dimensions, implicit or explicit, of one’s chosen research questions and methodological approaches

Professional Ethics        

  • understanding the specific ethical concepts, norms, practices, and codes of your organization, discipline, or profession
  • understanding the ethical issues that professionals typically encounter in the contemporary workplace, such as confidentiality and privacy, conflict of interest, honesty, bias, resource allocation, intellectual property, risk management
  • understanding the ethical foundations and consequences and impacts of one’s work

Critical & Analytical Thinking

  • applying systems thinking to identify and determine the relationships between variables, test hypotheses, and control for confounds
  • drawing logical conclusions based on data, avoiding confirmation bias and other cognitive biases
  • building and presenting arguments based on syntheses of ideas from multiple perspectives
  • using frameworks or sets of standards to evaluate the quality of procedures or solutions

Stress Management & Work/Life Balance

  • understanding the dimensions of personal well-being and developing practices to support them
  • managing stress, time, energy, life goals, and implementing healthy strategies for dealing with challenging experiences
  • making professional plans and acting on them, and seeking coaches, mentors, sponsors, and other experts to assist in planning and execution
  • communicating about one’s needs in professional settings

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Inclusive Mindset

  • engaging in lifelong learning about other perspectives and issues in diversity, equity, and inclusion across a variety of contexts
  • inspiring new angles of inquiry, new modes of analysis, new discoveries and new solutions through appreciating and engaging with diverse perspectives
  • applying awareness of differences in culture, identity, discipline, personality, and other factors to enhance productivity and build positive connections
  • considering how issues of diversity and inclusion intersect with one’s work, for example, through methods of inquiry and interactions with vulnerable populations

Equitable & Inclusive Environments

  • creating more equitable and inclusive spaces by understanding historical and present obstacles to equity and inclusion and working to remove those obstacles
  • learning and conscientiously engaging effective strategies to foster inclusion and advance equity in teams, organizations and institutions
  • engaging tools and strategies to have challenging conversations and work effectively with individuals with a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives
  • encouraging individuals from all backgrounds and identities, and especially from marginalized communities, to join your academic discipline or profession, and to succeed

Teamwork & Collaboration

  • contributing positively to teams, formally or informally
  • building positive connections and breaking down barriers to productivity by applying awareness of differences in culture, identity, discipline, personality, and other factors to personal and team interactions
  • facilitating meetings to serve a range of distinct purposes, such as brainstorming, converging on ideas, consensus-building and informing stakeholders

Leadership & Management

Leadership and Management

Leadership & Entrepreneurial Skills        

  • influencing and inspiring others through developing and communicating a vision for the future
  • cultivating leadership qualities including humility, empathy, courage, curiosity, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, authenticity, and an ethos of service
  • engaging facilitative practices to understand stakeholder perspectives and explore and advance ideas in broad service of community needs
  • knowing how to use one’s own strengths, and when to lead and when to follow

Management of People & Projects

  • using tools and practices to complete complex projects within constraints in availability of people, resources, and time
  • delegating effectively to empower others to work independently and make unique contributions
  • communicating productively with the wide range of individuals involved in a project, including supervisees, peers, and supervisors

Negotiation & Conflict Resolution           

  • advocating for yourself and on behalf of others
  • engaging in difficult conversations with confidence
  • moving a group from discord to shared goals
  • working with bosses and employers effectively under pressure and through conflict

Innovation & Problem-Solving 

  • cultivating a growth mindset and a focus on curiosity, taking on challenges, being open to many perspectives, and learning from mistakes
  • applying creativity and innovation practices, such as design thinking, to finding solutions to complex problems
  • facilitating collaborative problem solving in groups and teams

Career Development

Career Development

Career Exploration & Preparation          

  • taking personal ownership of educational and career goals by exploring and understanding own skills, interests, values, preferences, and goals
  • understanding the career pathways and employment sectors that most align with your interests, skills, and values
  • understanding and developing the skills and competencies needed for career pathways of interest,
  • articulating your transferable skills and competencies for various careers

Networking & Relationship Building        

  • developing and maintaining professional relationships with a wide range of people and organizations, including professional societies
  • building and cultivating a network of mentors to support your professional growth at all stages of your career
  • conducting informational interviews to learn about professions and organizations
  • utilizing online tools to connect with Stanford students and affiliates

Job Search Skills

  • articulating your diverse skills, disciplinary knowledge, professional competencies, and professional identity via resumes, curriculum vitae, cover letters, and digital platforms
  • interviewing to convey effectively your technical knowledge and professional competencies
  • implementing a multi-pronged job search that incorporates both responding to job postings and networking to tap into the “hidden job market”
  • negotiating offers and preparing for onboarding 
  • utilizing online tools to effectively build professional connections and gather data about opportunities
  • using appropriate etiquette, such as sending thank you emails after an interview