Skills and competencies vs knowledge

Yevgeniya Kim, the Director of Nazarbayev University’s Career and Advising Center, has been working there since its inception in 2012. The main tasks of the Center are to work together with students on their career development and to advise students and graduates on issues related to their professional growth. We offer an interview with Yevgeniya on our website.

– As you know, a university system of education encourages students in many ways to be independent, as opposed to the school systems encountered earlier in life.  Everything at the university is aimed at providing students with opportunities for development, as they say, “to teach them to fish and you feed him for a lifetime “.  How successfully students can take advantage of these opportunities depends on themselves.

We live in a world where the overall knowledge base is constantly growing, so every day there is new data and knowledge in any field of science, industry or business. This changing landscape means that a number of transferrable skills are highly prized.  Among them, according to the World Economic Forum Report, are the ability to be analytical, to innovate, to find comprehensive solutions, to think critically, to actively learn, and finally, to be able to learn new skills in general. Supporting students in developing these skills is where the Center sees its main task, which it strives to achieve working together with the schools, the university library, and research centers. We try to actively involve our students and graduates in joint work with our partners through professional development programs (i.e., Company Days, Career Days, seminars on key skills, simulation interviews, and excursions). Starting next academic year, we plan to open a career planning course based on this program.

– How can students acquire professional competencies and practical experience during their studies at the university?

– The word “competence” has a Latin origin, which means to “meet, come together, or be capable of”. When we talk about professional competences, we mean the ability to act successfully on the basis of practical experience, skills, knowledge, and habits.  Being competent comes only through practice, and in today’s world skills are acquired based on how involved each individual is in actually “doing” something. 

Undoubtedly, internships provide students with opportunities to not only increase their level of knowledge, but to also test how applicable that knowledge is, and to highlight where the further focus is needed during their studies.  In general, any practical activity such as professional practice, part-time employment, or even participation in student clubs will improve one’s competence in his or her chosen field.

In the age of digitalization and artificial intelligence a number of qualities are becoming increasingly important such as resilience, agility, ingenuity, being results oriented and able to work in a team. I am glad that today more and more attention is paid to the formation and development of such qualities and skills in the younger generation.

As Confucius said: “The path of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” One should not be afraid to make mistakes, to fall, to get up and to keep moving forward. By trial and error, you can gain experience.  According to experts in the field of career development, great opportunities will be available to professionals who successfully manage the huge flow of new information and constant changes.  A lot of time is required to fill the gaps in one’s knowledge.  Therefore, the advice to our students (and not only) is to study all the time.

– Tell us, how does your Center interact with graduates of NU?

– Our graduates are our full partners and colleagues. We continue to cooperate with them at different levels, based on the principles of mutual professional respect. As part of the alumni involvement in the University, I would like to highlight the Mentoring Program, which allows our alumni to share their experience both in their careers and their academic backgrounds. There are also panel discussions, where students ask our alumni questions about “life after university” and hopefully get answers and help. 

Our alumni have already become our partners in the field of internship offers, leadership programs, and job vacancies. They are excellent ambassadors for both the organizations in which they work and Nazarbayev University. This year we are expecting our fifth graduating cohort. I would like to wish them all to find their way in life and become good professionals, whom the University and the country will be proud of.

You can find information about the services and programs of the Career and Advising Center, events, and graduates of NU, on the website cac.nu.edu.kz and on social networks