Skill by plenty

Interpersonal skills, confidence, creativity and the ability to diversify have been rated as the most important traits when hiring young candidates. It’s pretty clear that employers are no longer just looking for a degree, so what does a graduate need to do now?

An emerging gap between education and skills was recently highlighted by some 80 employers, which included the likes of Sage, RBS, Citi Group and Tate Steel, calling for employ ability and enterprise to be introduced in the education system.

“Employers look for a wide variety of skills and abilities – they generally don’t look for a particular degree, rather they look for verbal, written and presentation skills, time management and customer service skills,” said Deputy CEO of Financial Skills Partnership Sarah Thwaites.

Graduates must be aware that as well as their degree they need to develop a strong skills set, which are in many cases, found outside the classroom. Importantly, Angela Davies from the Career and Employability Centre for Aston University said: “It is not enough to say ‘teamwork is my strong point’, recruiters are looking at ways in which you can illustrate this to them. At the end of the day, your skills are what make you a desirable candidate for any organisation.”

So how can a graduate develop the skills employers are looking for? Sarah added: “Internships are a good way of getting some work experience – it gives graduates the opportunity to access a wide group of people.”

Similarly, Carl Pillared, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said: “Consider any type of work, including temping and part-time work, reflect on what skills you might lack and explore ways of gaining these skills.” On an individual level, Sarah added: “Do things outside of your degree course – things like Duke of Edinburgh, local work, charity work or even volunteering.

You need to get the relationships with other people to build the various competencies in verbal, written and communication skills.” For people who have been in a band, Angela said: “Think about negotiating a local cheap rehearsal room, organising regular practice sessions or marketing your first gig.”

Getting involved in university societies is a great way of gaining experience, too. Abigail Crocker, now a journalist, joined her university radio society at Royal Holloway and found the experience invaluable when it came to interviews.

“Working for the university radio station helped my communication skills – I learned how to work in a team, it built my confidence because I had to broadcast live and it gave me an insight into office politics – the inevitability of wherever you work! I can safely say my radio experience developed my commercial skills so much more than had I just done my degree.”

The main thing is “keep engaged and constantly reflect on what you have gained from any experience you undertake,” added Carl. “That reflection is vital if you are to convince an employer that you should get the job rather than someone else.”

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