What is intercultural competence? And 4 reasons why employers value it | Top Universities

What is intercultural competence? And 4 reasons why employers value it

By Chloe Lane

Updated September 16, 2023 Updated September 16, 2023

Sponsored by UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School

The world, and particularly the world of business, is becoming increasingly globalised. Businesses now often have offices in several countries and their colleagues and clients come from around the world.

COVID-19 has only enhanced this, with many employees now working from home. In many companies, this is something that looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

As a result, it is now more vital than ever that graduates have the correct skills to succeed in these international environments. Building intercultural competence is one way to do that.

Ireland’s leading global business school, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, is offering an Intercultural Development Programme (ICD) to help its students build the intercultural competence skills they need to succeed in the modern business world.

TopUniversities spoke to them to find out more.

What is intercultural competence?

Intercultural competence is the ability to communicate and work well with people from different cultural backgrounds. You will need to learn to interact and work efficiently with people who have different values, beliefs, religions and experiences to you.

UCD Smurfit School ranks amongst the world’s top one percent of universities and places a strong focus on international diversity. Approximately half of the school’s student population is made up of international students from all around the world. UCD Smurfit School encourages this diversity and offers a wide range of scholarships and funding for international students looking to study in Ireland.

The school’s new Intercultural Development Programme (ICD) is offered to all students studying one of the school’s extensive master’s or MBA courses. The programme is made to be flexible and is completed alongside your degree. Students can choose to complete either the Introductory ICD or the Advanced ICD.

The ICD programme is research-driven and theory-based, designed to help students build international competence, stand out in the global job market and develop the skills needed to enhance their career and succeed in an international company.

The ICD also helps UCD Smurfit School’s international students adapt quickly and effectively into Irish higher education, helping them meet new friends and adjust to a new way of learning.

Why do employers value intercultural competence?

The fight for top graduate business positions is incredibly competitive. If you want to work for some of the top graduate employers, it’s rarely enough to just have a degree.

Although, of course, a top quality degree – such as one of UCD Smurfit School’s postgraduate programmes – is also essential to impress graduate employers. 

Employers are looking for graduates who can demonstrate that they work well in a team and who will go above and beyond in their work. Gaining intercultural competence is one way to demonstrate these skills.

Here are several other ways having intercultural competence will help you stand out to employers:

You’ll gain essential skills for the modern workplace

Intercultural competence is an essential set of skills needed in the modern workplace. By learning how to interact better with people from different backgrounds you’ll also learn valuable communication skills, effective time management, conflict management and teamwork, both virtually and in-person.

These skills are easily transferrable to a corporate setting and are highly sought after by graduate employers.

In UCD Smurfit School’s Intercultural Development Programme, you will learn all of these skills and more, working alongside other students from different organisations, countries and backgrounds, making you instantly more hirable.

Prepares you to work for international companies

By learning and developing the skills needed for international competence, you will be highly valued by companies, NGOs and governments who cater to increasingly diverse populations and who operate internationally.

Having intercultural competence shows that you can work well with co-workers and clients from a variety of different cultures, and countries, making you ideally suited to an international firm.

It shows you’re pro-active

Taking steps to build intercultural competence shows employers that you are pro-active and are consistently striving to improve yourself and your employability. It also shows that you care about respecting potential colleagues and clients: a vital asset to any work environment.

COVID-19 has further emphasised the need for international collaboration. Having this skill on your CV will strengthen your job application and gives you an edge over other applicants.

Something to talk about in interviews

In job interviews, emphasise the transferrable skills you’ve learnt building intercultural competence and explain how your training makes you the best candidate for the role.

Students studying an MBA at UCD Smurfit Business School also have the option to complete the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) to further enhance their skills.

The LDP helps students gain an insight into their motivations, behaviour and interactions with others through one-to-one executive coaching and self-reflection assignments. Students also learn about leading a team as well as developing and implementing strategy and vision.

Lead image: UCD Smurfit School students join Dr Rhona Mahony for the Impact Makers: UCD Smurfit MBA Speaker Series. Credit: Shane O'Neill for UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School

This article was originally published in March 2021 . It was last updated in September 2023

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