The CBI lists ten ‘core skills’ that a graduate needs to land a graduate level job. Secure them and you will have the job clout needed to compete with the 73 other grads after the position you want. That’s the average number of graduates who compete for a single job, although if you’re after a position in retail or investment banking the figure rises to 154 and 142 respectively.
While a good degree plays a role in helping you to secure a good job, 52% of employers say graduates are not work ready without soft skills such as initiative, business awareness, critical thinking and resilience.
These skills can only be acquired by working inside an organisation and essentially learning the art of working with other people. They also take time to acquire and the way to acquire them is not by working part time in a bar or shop doing essentially menial manual labour: you need to either do something substantive involving lots of others within university or by engaging in the workplace where you get to do something of significance.
There are two reasons why you can’t afford to wait until graduation to start acquiring these skills. The first is because you can’t get a job without this work experience. The second is because these skills take time to acquire. You need to prepare yourself for the working world before you graduate by building the 10 skills you need to get a good graduate job now.
10 key skills employers look for in work experience
Students who are serious about getting a good job post graduation need to approach these skills with methodical exactitude to acquire them. Without these skills and proof of applying them in work experience graduates are at a huge disadvantage in an already competitive job market.
In the next two blog posts we’ll be looking at the ten skills highlighted by the CBI and why you need to build them into your work experience during your studies – if not before.
Core skill 1: Self Motivation
Take a CV to employers that says you worked during your studies and it shows a lot more than motivation on a day-to-day basis. It says you have the determination to look for, apply and find experience – in addition to your studies – because you realise it is for your future benefit. Motivate yourself to do jobs even when you don’t feel like it then you will have something to talk about at the interview.
Core skill 2: Communication
Not only do employers want to know that you understand the difference between speaking to senior staff, colleagues and clients, but communication is your only tool in the interview room. There is no place for nerves in a job interview and the more comfortable you are with communicating the better you will be able to express yourself in front of potential employers. Seek out opportunities to communicate with as wide a variety of people at work as you possibly can. Note the differences.
Core skill 3: Learning
At university you learn by studying, but when it comes to the workplace you have to learn by doing and employers want to know you have experience of putting knowledge into practice. This is why it is so important that you can get work experience in a similar field to your studies or at least a position that requires many of the same skills. Aim to learn new things so you can perform tasks better, then talk about it.
Core skill 4: Leadership & Teamwork
Almost every interview will ask you to give examples of when you have shown leadership and teamwork. There are times when it pays to speak up and give your ideas, help others and take the lead – but you can never forget that you are part of a team. Which means you need to know when to chip in and how your role fits in and contributes to those around you.
Core skill 5: Relationship Building
There are a number of complex relationships in the workplace that need to run smoothly and employers want to know you can work effectively in each of them. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you need to show that you can work professionally with senior staff, colleagues and customers – whatever relationship you have with them. Get to know staff, clients and customers by repeated contact. Follow up promises and help solve problems. That’s how you build relationships.
In Part Two we will take a look at the other five skills highlighted by the CBI and other ideas about how to get work experience as part of your uni exit strategy.