The 21st century skills checklist that will widen your graduate career options–Part 1

Feb 4, 2015

Want to widen your graduate career options? If you are lacking any of the following from this set of skills needed for all graduate careers then you will find it very difficult to move forward in your choice of graduate career whatever it may be. Dr Jackie Gerstein, upon whose work this list is based, has identified these as the 21st century skills that all teachers should provide students with the opportunity to learn.

As far as graduate careers are concerned, 21st century skills is a euphemism for the skills needed to get a top graduate job in today’s workplace and graduates who possess these skills will be more employable than those who don’t. Period.

We’ve rewritten them to make them more relevant for graduates who are serious about their career choice, and here they are:

Oral and written communication skills – embrace opportunities to express your own views, experiences and voice in both verbal and written contexts. You will usually have the chance to do this through live presentations, group projects, seminars and essays so seize these in order to develop your oral and communication skills.

Critical thinking and problem-solving – ask questions to develop your ability to think critically, particularly as a way to help you solve problems. You need to get out of comfort zones, habitual ways of doing and approaching things and copying everyone else. If you embrace opportunities that make you have to think anew or to challenge old thinking you may be surprised by how much it can help you stand out from others and where it will lead you.

Curiosity and imagination – being inquisitive is not just for kids and cats but is the key to nurturing the enthusiasm for life long learning. No employer wants to employ someone who thinks they have nothing more to learn and shows no interest in finding out new things. So recognise and embrace your inquisitiveness and allow it to take you to new places in your work.

Initiative and entrepreneurialism – these are skills best developed through exposure to real work scenarios, as in the work component of a sandwich course, internships, volunteering and other opportunities for work experience. You can also develop this skill by using your initiative to set up and develop your own projects. Starting and building a personal blog, organising an event, making and selling your own products and building a following on social media all require skills in initiative and entrepreneurship. You must show that risk of failure doesn’t stop you trying new things.

Agility and adaptability – anything inflexible will break under pressure and your attitude and staying power are the same. Learn how to see change as a normal part of life and to embrace it when it comes. If you do you will be flexible when inevitable changes occur and ready to respond quickly to address it.

Hope and optimism – this is about having a ‘can do’ attitude and one of the best ways to develop and grow one is to expose yourself to inspirational stories of how people have tackled and overcome adversities and set backs. You will then see that all things are possible. Read biographies, especially of those you admire or who are in the career field that interests you. Chances are they did not succeed overnight but had to work at things. Finally, maintain your ‘can do’ attitude through self-talk like Mohamed Ali.

Self-evaluation – the more you know yourself the better off you will be able to express and sell yourself to a potential employee. Start by getting to understand your learning style (are you a visual, kinesthetic, creative or logical person?) Next, get to understand what motivates you, for example, if you can’t be bothered to do something or find a task boring. Discovering what motivates you will help you to get moving again at times like these. Finally, get into the habit of reflecting on your own learning: after each event, ask yourself what you learnt and what most interested you about it.

To read part 2 of this blog on the skills needed to move you ahead in your graduate career click here!



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