It’s all very well having impressive qualifications but if you don’t have employability skills, you will be letting yourself down.
In a recent Confederation of British Industry (CBI) skills survey, 44% of employers said they were not satisfied with the levels of business and customer awareness among candidates. The CBI says the vast majority of graduates do have many of the capabilities employers need, but it’s not universal and not everyone has enough.
Employability means a set of achievements and skills, understandings and personal attributes that make students more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.
It goes without saying that young recruits looking for work should be producing sparkling CVs, excellent covering letters and developing a good interview style, but the Department of Education, Science and Training, in partnership with the BBC and Microsoft and reported in theFinancial Times, points out a number of other areas that should not be neglected. These include written, verbal and communication skills, teamwork, commercial awareness, analytical skills, initiative and drive, time management, planning and organisation and flexibility.
What if you think you may lack some or all of these skills?
There are several ways to increase your attractiveness to potential employers. Here are a few:
Work shadowing: learning from others can be highly instructive.
Working part-time or in your holidays: learning how to deal with customers, handle money and work under pressure will hold you in good stead for your future career.
Using your course: analysis, verbal communication, numeracy, teamwork, IT and technical skills can all be honed while at college or university.
Developing leadership skills: by heading up a club or society, leading a project, captaining a sport’s team or being a mentor you will pick up the skills required to lead in your job.
Improving writing and speaking skills: being at college should help these disciplines – writing dissertations and essays, debating, doing drama, contributing to seminars or giving presentations.
Get better at working in a team and co-operating: Become involved in group projects, the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, an orchestra or band.
Planning and organisation: by working out a revision schedule, a course project, organising society or students’ union activities will all help to improve your planning and organisational skills.
Become commercially aware: this can be done by reading the business sections of newspapers, going on a business course, talking to businessmen etc.
These are just a few ideas. There are other skills it’s a good idea to have such as self-motivation, flexibility, effective networking, good decision-making and the art of persuasion.
No-one can be talented at everything though, so concentrate on the key skills or the ones you feel may be most helpful to you in your future career.