A competency is the capability to apply or use a set of related knowledge, skills, abilities and individual attributes which, when applied in specific roles, help achieve desired results.
To better understand a competency, it’s important to define its components:

  • Knowledge is the information you know, including principles, facts and procedures as well as the ability to apply this information in a variety of situations. For example, you may know the procedure perform mathematical tasks like multiplying double digit numbers.
  • A skill is about using your knowledge to do something well—your ability to perform the right technique at the right time. It’s usually developed through training and practice. For example, you could become a skilled mathematician through frequent practice and application of the knowledge that you have.
  • Ability is the power or aptitude to perform physical or mental activities that are often associated with a profession or trade, such as computer programming, plumbing, calculus etc.
  • An attribute is an individual’s inherent characteristics or qualities, usually expressed through what they think, do and feel. They are viewed as genetically developed or acquired through life experiences. For example, you could be known for your friendly nature and positive attitude.

A competency is broken down into specific components or tasks. Each of those can be described in terms of specific behaviours at different levels of proficiency.

For example:

Communication is one of the six core competencies that we talk about in Becoming YU and it is broken down as follows:

  • Writing
  • Communicating verbally
  • Delivering presentations
  • Facilitating groups
  • Active listening
  • Asking questions
  • Influencing & persuading
  • Negotiating
  • Exercising tact, diplomacy and sensitivity
  • Customizing communication style and content
  • Giving feedback
  • Communicating via social/digital media

You can find a complete definition of each of the competencies and their components in the  Becoming YU Competency Dictionary. By tracking the skills you’re developing through your personal, academic and professional experiences, you’ll be better equipped to articulate and provide examples of these skills to a prospective employer or for a future educational opportunity.


In the Get Started! – Goal Setting section of Becoming YU, you will be asked to assess your ability in each of the six core competencies. It’s important to know how to do this.

  1. Consider all the relevant life experiences you’ve had to date, including in-class and out-of-class experiences. Think about the competencies you developed through these experiences.
  2. Review the definition and behavioural examples of the competency you are assessing. (Found in the resource playbook)
  3. Complete the Get Started! – Goal Setting section of Becoming YU and use the following guideline for the scale when rating yourself:

Beginning – You have just started to recognize opportunities to work on this component/task. You also make initial attempts at demonstrating this component/task, but you know that you could improve.
Developing – You can think of a few times where you have demonstrated this component/task. You sometimes think about how to develop it further. You sometimes look for opportunities in your life to apply this component/task.
Approaching Proficiency – You have clear examples from your life where you’ve demonstrated this component/task and often think about how to develop it further. You often look for opportunities in your life to apply this component/task.
Proficient – You are well advanced in this component/task. You often seek out opportunities to use and practice it. You consider your development and appreciate the importance of this component/task in relationship to your experiences.
Advanced - You have a superior understanding and expertise of this component/task and you demonstrate it in all areas of your life. You regularly exceed expectations and are an exemplar of this component/task to your peers.

It’s important to keep in mind that none of us is perfect and you’re not expected to be “Advanced” or even “proficient” in any of the competencies. In fact, it would be unrealistic to expect that of yourself! Indicating your proficiency as “Beginning” or “Developing” illustrates that you are realistic about your skills and are continuing to work towards improvement – which is in itself a highly valued quality in the work-place.