Career Readiness Through Intentional Reflection of Cultural Intelligence  

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) describes Career Readiness Core Competencies that higher education students need to be successful in the workplace. Previously titled Cultural Competence, one of the eight competencies was recently renamed to Equity and Inclusion. Research shows increased cultural intelligence leads to better career and team performance. Partnering with the Cultural Intelligence Center (CQC), Dr. Maggie Mahoney and the CQC created a tool for students and those in career transitions to identify and understand both their cultural intelligence and unconscious bias and apply this knowledge to improve their careers. The CQ Credential: An Equity and Inclusion Masterclass Reflection Journal guides participants through the discovery of their own cultural intelligence including their CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action. Participants learn how to apply these capabilities to the workplace in ways that facilitate a successful career using equity and inclusion principles and their own cultural intelligence. They also practice transferring these newly acquired skills to important organizational issues such as unconscious bias and imposter syndrome. Overall, the Masterclass from guides participants step by step to inclusive career success seen by NACE and other research as essential for success in the global workforce


  • Maggie Mahoney, Ed.D. | Director, Global Engagement, University of Houston
  • Keyla Waslawski | Vice President, Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC 

Career readiness is key to holistic student success because it is the “foundation upon which a successful career is launched” and thrives (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2022). NACE describes eight Career Readiness Core Competencies higher education students need to succeed as they transition into the workplace. One of the competencies, previously titled Cultural Competence, is Equity and Inclusion. NACE argues that working in a dynamic, global workforce requires students and professionals to grasp and demonstrate cultural intelligence in their collaborations and interactions with colleagues, clients, and suppliers. 

NACE illustrates these career readiness competencies with sample behaviors that help explain their goals. The Equity and Inclusion competency is exemplified by demonstrating “the awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills required to equitably engage and include people from different local and global cultures” and to “engage in anti-racist practices that actively challenge the systems, structures, and policies of racism” (Gray, 2021). This explanation highlights the importance of global learning as well as equity and inclusion and requires coordination across higher education institution departments. 

High-impact practices like education abroad and internships are common in higher education, and research shows that these practices are more effective when they include reflection (Kuh, et al., 2013). To ensure these effects, Kuh and colleagues (2013) make a case for the value of “self-reflection as a necessary component in career readiness.” This connection between cultural competence with equity and inclusion, combined with self-reflection, should bolster career readiness. In professional settings cultural competence may be nebulous or challenging to define; however, the SHRM Foundation (2015), an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management, notes these skills can be both clearly defined and developed using tools like the Cultural Intelligence model.  

The Cultural Intelligence Center is a research-based training and consulting firm that helps organizations and individuals around the world assess and improve Cultural Intelligence (CQ®). Cultural Intelligence, or CQ, is a globally recognized way of assessing and improving effectiveness in culturally diverse situations and is rooted in decades of research showing CQ predicts a wide range of intercultural outcomes such as cultural adaptation, job performance, global leadership, and team processes (Van Dyne, et al., 2012). CQ strengthens the relationship between diversity and effectiveness by helping individuals understand and apply the four CQ capabilities: CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action, thus allowing them to detect, assimilate, reason, and act on cultural cues appropriately (Van Dyne et al., 2012). 

Furthermore, CQ can be enhanced and developed by “active engagement in education, travel, international assignments, and other intercultural experiences” (Van Dyne et al., 2012, p. 297). This research notes international travel is not the only way to develop this competency, and intentional engagement with intercultural persons and environments can be developmental. In addition, CQ facilitates equitable and inclusive behaviors such as those outlined by NACE. Without cultural intelligence diverse teams tend not to work as effectively as homogenous teams (Livermore, 2016). In contrast, when CQ levels are high, diverse team members are more likely to trust each other, share ideas, and come up with more innovative solutions than homogenous teams (SHRM Foundation, 2015). Students entering the global workforce need to have a deep understanding of their own cultural intelligence and bias as key components of their career readiness. 

A tool to support intentional reflection for career readiness is the Equity and Inclusion Masterclass Reflection Journal. This tool guides students through a step-by-step reflection process that gives them insights for how to explain their capabilities to employers as well as how to apply their CQ skills on the job to support equity and inclusion. Drawing on cultural intelligence and student development research, and focusing on the core competencies of culture, equity, and inclusion, the tool emphasizes intentional reflective journaling. Using results from completing the CQ assessment, MyCQ e-Learning, and MyUB e-Learning focused on unconscious bias, participants use the guided journal to reflect on ways to apply their knowledge and capabilities during job search and early career stages, with the overall objective to apply CQ capabilities to support equity and inclusion in the workplace. This reflection journal provides students near to graduation as well as transitioning career professionals the opportunity to intentionally review their levels of CQ, their career preparation, and a holistic understanding of how that fits into an inclusive workplace and career.  

The intersectional demands of global and local career readiness require collaborative solutions across campus departments and stakeholders. These engagement opportunities and spaces for reflection can be sponsored jointly by education abroad, DEI offices, international student offices, career services, and academic advising, to name a few. Further engaging our woven focus of equity and inclusion creates a dynamic tapestry of developed competencies that “can be used in career services and across campus to boost students’ development and help them make a successful transition to the workforce” (Gray, 2021).


Gray, K. (2021) The sample behaviors that provide evidence of career readiness. National Association of Colleges and Employers. 

Kuh, G. D., O’Donnell, K., & Reed, S. (2013). Ensuring Quality and Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale. Washington DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Livermore, D. (2016). Driven by difference: How great companies fuel innovation through diversity. AMACOM.  

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2022). What is Career Readiness?

SHRM Foundation (2015). Cultural Intelligence: The essential intelligence for the 21st century. U.S.A. 

Van Dyne, L., Ang, S., Ng, K. Y., Rockstuhl, T., Tan, M. L., & Koh, C. (2012). Sub-dimensions of the Four Factor Model of Cultural Intelligence: Expanding the conceptualization and measurement of cultural intelligence. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(4). pp. 295-313. 

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