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A Simple Survey Rules the Day

EACE contribution by Carol Crosby, Assistant Director in Career Services at Bridgewater State University.

Continuing from my last blog:

Now that we had our newly enhanced mission statement (and a staff who liked our mission), I had another question:

What are those professional skills?

I knew I could find a list of skills important to employers on the NACE website.  The annual Job Outlook Survey highlights results from employers across the nation.  But as a state university, 78% of our students seek jobs in-state; I wanted more regionally focused data.  I also wanted staff, faculty and employers to know what we were trying to do and to feel that they had a voice in the process.



So I developed a very simple survey.  I just needed to know one thing, thus the survey asked for only one response, using an open-ended question:

Please list the professional skills you feel Bridgewater State University students should obtain to transition from a student to a professional position.

I collected a list of employers, faculty on our campus and staff with whom we regularly interact and I sent individually addressed e-mails (mail merge is a lovely thing) with the survey attached.  I received a 30% response rate and I had some great answers with the kind of detail that I had hoped for.

I sent the responses to my director and the counseling staff and asked them to pool the responses into specific skill groups, and then coded the qualitative data.  In one two-hour meeting, we reviewed everyone’s responses and came up with the final professional skill categories.  Some of the categories included (with some examples of skills cited by our respondents):

Verbal Communication

Speaking effectively in day-to-day interactions
Strong ability to present ideas to various audiences
Ability to handle pre-screening phone interviews

Professional Writing

Ability to write effectively with command of the English language
Present resume and related documents that demonstrate professional skills

Social Media Professionalism

Crafting an on-line presence
Know how to interact with and use social media properly

Professional Presence

Polished approach to representing the company
Knows the rules of decorum as it applies to the profession

In total, the staff created a list of 28 professional skills through this method.  The full list includes:  Verbal Communication, Professional Writing, Professional Relationships, Teamwork, Negotiation, Customer Service, Networking, Social Media Professionalism, Financial Knowledge and Skills, Time Management, Field Specific Knowledge, Field Specific Skills, Critical and Analytical Skills, Computer Skills, Research Skills, Organizational Ability, Leadership, Followership, Professional Goals, Professional Ethics, Independence, Advocacy, Professional Behavior, Professional Presence, Professional Attire, Work/Life Balance, Diversity Awareness, and Global Awareness.

This list is a little different from the NACE Job Outlook Survey Results, but our community participated and the counseling staff also had an opportunity to share their opinions and now was very invested in the process.

Not bad for a one answer survey.

In my next blog, I will highlight how we began to embed these skills in the work our office did with our students.


Carol Crosby

Carol Crosby

Carol Crosby is Assistant Director in Career Services at Bridgewater State University.  She has also worked in Student Affairs at Wesleyan University, University of Connecticut, and Brandeis University.  She received her M.S. in College Student Personnel from University of Rhode Island and her B.A. in English from Wheaton College.  You can connect with her through LinkedIn or by e-mailing her at

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