Undergraduate Careers Manager, Hilary, shares how you can improve your employability skills to give you a competitive edge when you graduate.
Going to university is not just about getting a great degree, although that is important, many undergraduates say that career prospects are a major motivation too. There is so much more to be gained from your university experience both inside and outside of the classroom. As an undergraduate, you will develop both personally and professionally in the three or four years that you are at university. A bit of planning can help to ensure that you thrive and get the most out of your university experience so that you are on track for a successful graduate career, whatever you decide to do.
There are so many great activities to get involved in at Warwick that are a great way to make new friends, and contacts and also develop your skills and strengths at the same time. If you think that employers won’t be interested in your involvement in sports, student societies, charity work or group research projects, think again. They are very interested. Yes, they look for high-achieving students academically, but they also want to recruit well-rounded, interesting people with a diverse range of experiences and skills.
According to the Future of Jobs Report 2023, the top 10 skills employers globally are looking for now and in the future are:
1. Analytical thinking
2. Creative thinking
3. Resilience, flexibility and agility
4. Motivation and self-awareness
5. Curiosity and life-long learning
6. Technological literacy
7. Dependability and attention to detail
8. Empathy and active listening
9. Leadership and social influence
10. Quality control.
You will see that most of these are ‘soft skills’ where no significant technical knowledge or expertise is required. Whilst a university you will have ample opportunities to develop these skills, so there is no time to waste! Being a ‘ready to hire’ graduate will help to enhance your career prospects, especially in the post-pandemic labour market.
According to a survey, nearly 80% of employers believe that newly recruited graduates do not arrive possessing the skills they need to be ‘work-ready’ and as a student, you need to be able to stand out in a digital and hybrid world. So how can you get ahead and develop into a ‘ready to hire’ graduate during university?
Whether it is student societies, volunteer or charity work, being a student ambassador, joining a sports team and much more, get involved in university life and extra-curricular activities beyond what is required for your course. Not only is it a great way to expand your social network, you can develop sought-after skills like teamwork, leadership, problem-solving and resilience. Employers want to see that you do more than just study at university, even though they also expect high academic performance.
Get work experience!
Students who don’t have any work experience by the time they graduate will struggle in the graduate labour market. Employers will often look for work experience as a way for students to prove they have the required skills. This could be through a part-time job – demonstrating customer service, working under pressure, teamwork and using initiative or more formal student work experience opportunities such as internships or placement years.
Get to know your fellow students/alumni and colleagues to expand your personal and professional network as much as possible. They may prove to be very useful contacts for your future career and you could also be useful to them. Explore who you know already, what work they do, and who they know. Think broadly – your family, friends of the family, neighbours, friends, and acquaintances in addition to the university network/contacts. Also, don’t forget the potential benefits of online professional networking via Linkedin.
Attend employer/career events
Make the most of opportunities to meet with employers and recruiters through events and activities at the university. Some employers will sponsor student societies and attend related events for example and also employer events organised by your university/department careers service. We at WBS run a wide range of employer/alumni careers events throughout the year, both online and in person, covering all different job types and industry sectors, not just Banking and Finance.
Both at WBS and wider Warwick University there are so many great employer events to attend, especially in the Autumn term, without students even leaving campus. Indeed, Warwick is consistently in the top 5 most targeted universities by the top 100 graduate employers. This presents a great opportunity for students to ask employers valuable questions, stand out before making any initial applications and network with alumni as well as HR and recruitment representatives.
Enhance digital literacy and embrace continuous lifelong learning
Improving your self-awareness and understanding of your strengths and areas for development is so important when it comes to preparing yourself for your future career. Get into a regular habit of reflecting on your experiences, skills gained, and goal setting and learn to embrace an approach of continuous learning and improvement. Take the initiative to do some online courses to improve your digital literacy for example with tools like data analytics, project management software or advanced Excel or take on some free courses to enhance your knowledge from your degree (e.g. Coursera)
Use your careers service
Throughout your degree, take advantage of the careers support available to you, ranging from essential downloadable advice guides to 1 to 1 coaching support and much, much more. We can help you formulate and implement a plan and strategy as to how to best develop these sought-after skills whilst you are at university and help to ensure that you become a ‘ready to hire’ graduate.
For current WBS students, see more careers information here, don’t hesitate to contact us in WBS Careers for advice and support at any point during your degree, we are also open during the vacation periods.