How to develop your employability skills whilst at university
30 May 2022

Undergraduate Careers Manager, Hilary, shares her advice on how you can ‘get ahead in the game’ and develop your employability skills whilst at university.

So according to Deloitte’s recent survey, flexibility and adaptability in their staff is, by far, the trait employers believe to be most critical to the future of their organisation. The need for employees to be versatile and resilient is essential, especially now since the COVID pandemic, when staff had to change very rapidly and pivot or learn new skills at very short notice.

According to the Future of Jobs report 2020, the top 10 skills employers globally are looking for are:

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active learning and learning strategies
  3. Complex problem-solving
  4. Critical thinking and analysis
  5. Creativity, originality, and initiative
  6. Leadership and social influence
  7. Technology use, monitoring and control
  8. Technology design and programming
  9. Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility
  10. Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation

You will see that most of these are ‘soft skills’ where no significant technical knowledge or expertise is required and there are ample opportunities to develop these skills whilst at university, there is no time to waste! Being a ‘ready to hire’ graduate will really help to enhance your career prospects, especially in the post-pandemic labour market.

According to a recent 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 really 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?

Get involved!

Whether it is student societies, volunteer or charity work, being a student ambassador, in 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, but you can also 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 too.

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, using initiative for example or more formal student work experience opportunities such as internships or placement years.

Network!

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 do they do, and who do they know. Think broadly – your family, friends of the family, neighbours, friends, acquaintances in addition to the university network/contacts.

Attend employer/careers events

Make the most of opportunities to meet with employers and recruiters through events and activities at 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.

For example, we recently ran a virtual employer engagement day exclusively for Warwick students, where around 20 employers led sessions including recruiter presentations to small group networking chats. These included employers from a range of different sectors who were advertising various roles and business streams. This was a great opportunity for students to ask employers valuable questions, stand out before making any initial applications and also network with WBS alumni as well as HR and recruitment representatives.

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 reach out to us in WBS Careers for advice and support at any point during your degree, we are also open during the vacation periods too.