Why you may be more work ready than you think

Oct 1, 2018

The number one question a graduate looking for that first graduate level position tends to ask is whether or not they have enough relevant work experience to get the job they want. Am I work ready?

This is understandable. Work experience is very important because without it, it will be extremely difficult for you to find a job. However, if you have graduated and don’t have much relevant work experience then what should you do?

In such cases you might find it better to flip the question on its head and to ask yourself the following question instead:

“What work relevant experience do I have?”

They may seem like the same question, but they aren’t. There’s a world of difference between the two, as you shall shortly see.

Relevant work experience is what the employer lists as a requirement for doing the job. Whereas work relevant experience is what you currently have to offer. The difference between the two is perspective.

Change the way you see your work experience

When you change the way you look at your work experience you will realise that you have far more to offer than you at first thought. You will quit believing that you cannot apply for a job that interests you purely because you don’t have the relevant work skills and experience the employer asks for.

When an employer writes a job advert he or she will list it from the perspective of what the position needs, but you cannot look at it entirely that way. At least not at first. You must ALSO look at what YOU have done that is relevant to the job.

How do you do that?

How to change the way you see your work experience

In my role as a career coach I frequently come across graduates who sincerely believe they have nothing to offer. They read a job vacancy and see a mismatch between the experience they have and what the employer is asking for. They see the sparseness of their CV and their hearts sink. And, sadly, they often give up.

But I tell them the same thing I’m telling you now: if you want to succeed at getting your feet on the ladder you must to begin to look at your skills and experience differently.

What I usually do at this point is ask them, what have you done at university? What do you do in your spare time? Have you volunteered anywhere, travelled to any countries? Do you have any hobbies?

The answers I get back usually astounds me just as much as it astounds them. They begin to reel off a long list of activities they have been involved with.

As the graduate talks about what they have done, and realise what they have learnt as a result, their eyes begin to light up. They realise that they have a lot more to offer than they first believed.

Analysing your work ready skills and experience

Work relevant skills and experience are those that can be used by an employer. They may need to be unpacked and repackaged differently but that’s all.

I once coached a guy who up until starting college had never rowed before in his life.

Within four months he was rowing for his college. He started university and by Christmas he was on their rowing team, a team that did exceptionally well in the England finals.

To achieve all of this he had to get himself up at 6am seven days a week to row between 6:30am and 7:15am. He went to gym three times of week. And he got his rowing blue in just 12 months.

He hadn’t thought anything of all of this until we spoke about his experience.

I had to point out that he had learnt self-resilience, time management and teamwork as you’re only as good as the worse person on your team.

I met another guy who wasn’t the best cricket player by his own admission but excelled when he took over the running the team.

He did a lot of rugby coaching and had to put out four or five teams to play on a Saturday. Through this he learnt soft skills like organisation, fundraising and leadership.

I have numerous examples of people who threw themselves into university social life, such as running societies, and I can always tell the difference. You don’t have to do a formal work experience programme with a big employer to understand what employability skills are.

How to find your work ready skills and experience

Ok, so you should now have a better idea of what work relevant skills are. Work ready skills are those that you have developed from:

  • School
  • College
  • University
  • Voluntary work
  • Travelling
  • Hobbies, like sports and writing
  • Non-paid work (like work experience you had to do while at school or college)
  • Internships
  • Part or full time work, whether job-related or not
develop employability skills via activities at university, volunteering, hobbies, internships, paid work

Obviously, the closer related they are to the job you want to apply for the more recognisable and easier they are to sell to an employer.

But, for the purpose of this article, where you may not have lots of this type of experience, you need to be much more critical of what you’ve done if you are to identify skills you can sell on your CV or in a job interview.

Start by asking yourself the following sets of questions:

Business awareness

Have I ever

  • volunteered or done work experience in an office, retail outlet or other place where I had to deal with people I did not know (i.e. customers, clients, suppliers)?
  • had to work anywhere where I have had to work to fit in and behave professionally?
  • worked with people from different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs?
  • worked with people of different positions, either senior or subordinate to me?
  • read and understood a business or trade report, article or newspaper?
  • done any research on a company or organisation to understand what makes it successful?

Communication and literacy skills

Have I ever had to

  • speak or do a presentation before an audience?
  • carry out research and to produce a conclusion or summary of what I learnt?
  • persuade anyone to make a decision, such as to sign up to or support a project or event?
  • write a blog, report, article or other material that was to be published in print or online?


Have I ever

  • been elected to represent my peers as a prefect, head boy/girl or in some other capacity?
  • had to lead others?
  • had to lead or manage a project?
  • had to convince people to sign up to a campaign or attend an event, like an open day?
  • had to show visitors around my school, college or university campus?

IT Skills

Have I ever used

  • a computer
  • Word, Excel, Photoshop, illustrator, SPSS, or other software?
  • WordPress, Joomla, Dreamweaver or other website building software?
  • social media to promote an event, product or information?


Have I ever had to

  • assess the outcome of an activity or situation and to provide feedback?
  • analyse figures, tables, statistics and other data and communicate them in a way that others could use?
  • handle money or budgets?

Problem Solving

Have I ever had to

  • help others solve a problem?
  • find my own ways to solve a problem?
  • ask others to help me solve a problem?


Have I ever had to

  • motivate myself or others to achieve a goal?
  • keep going in the face of disappointment or difficulty?
  • perform under pressure and keep my head?
  • deal with difficult or negative people?


Have I ever had to

  • organise my own time, workload, priorities or diary to get stuff done?
  • meet a deadline?
  • assume responsibility for others, a budget, a situation, event, outcome or anything else?


Have I ever had to

  • supervise others?
  • work as part of a team to achieve a goal?
  • find ways past problems so that I could achieve either of the above?
employability skills include business awareness, communication, entrepreneurship, IT skills, numeracy, problem solving, resilience, self-management, teamwork

There is no substitute for work experience gained from an employer. However, if you’ve graduated without having accumulated lots of relevant work experience then work relevant work experience will be the place for you to start. All is not lost. By answering the questions above you should be able to see that you still have something to offer.


A degree is no longer enough – Aspect County

Young people graduate into a different world from that of twenty or thirty years ago when their parents went to university. The student population has doubled since 1992 and last year UCAS reported that a record number, almost half, were accepted into university. The problem is what happens when they leave. With 78% of students now achieving a 1st or 2:1, competition for graduate level employment is rife. Which is why, according to official data by the Office of National Statistics, almost half (47%) of graduates were in non-graduate jobs two years later.
Read Article

How we help

One-to-One Coaching: Stage 1

If you’re a student or graduate looking for help, stage one of our one-to-one coaching: Learning about yourself – Find your ideal career will help you learn about yourself, give you a better understanding of your preferences, strengths and skills and help you find your ideal career.

The Student Book & The Graduate Book: Get (& Thrive In) The Job You Really Want

Chris Davies is the author of The Student Book, All you need to know to get the job you really want and The Graduate Book, All you need to know to do really well at work. The Student book introduces the 9 Employability Skills, how and where to acquire them, ways to develop them, how to prove you have these skills and how to create a CV that highlights your achievements.

Nail That Interview Course with Chris Davies

Nail That Interview Online Course will teach you everything you need for interview success. Module 1 – I CAN do the job – contains the Graduate Coach Skills Audit and the 9 Employability Skills.

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