Employers favour candidates with a wide range of employability skills to complement their job-specific skills and study. Learn what these skills are, how to identify those you have to offer, and how to build upon them.
Employability skills (sometimes called ‘soft’ skills) refer to a set of transferable skills and key personal attributes which are highly valued by employers and essential for effective performance in the workplace. Unlike professional or technical skills, these employability skills are generic in nature, rather than job-specific, and are common to all work roles and workplaces across all industry types - for instance, communication and teamwork.
Academic qualifications and good marks are not the only way to successfully engage at university. You should also gain experiences to enhance your employability skills, as these experiences will also provide you with skill examples for your job applications.
While at university:
Knowing how to speak about your skills is an important skill in itself! Incorporate relevant examples of your skills into job applications and interviews to increase your chances of success when applying for jobs.
Taking the time to identify your employability skills can help you to:
1. Start by listing all the activities you have been involved in through study, work and extracurricular opportunities.
If your studies involved work experience, clinical placements, internships or field work, draw examples from these experiences. These may include ‘devising a business plan’, ‘developing a site survey’ or ‘conducting and analysing client evaluations’. Remember to also include skills developed via research, projects and assignments undertaken during your studies.
Your work and extracurricular activities can also offer practical examples of employability skills such as training staff, event organisation, team sports and customer service skills.
2. For each activity, list the responsibilities you had, the skills you used and qualities you demonstrated. Be specific and avoid vague or general claims to skills.
3. Use this information to compile a list of the employability skills you have developed that are relevant to your field of expertise.
Skills sought by graduate employers include teamwork, communication, planning and organising, problem solving, and so forth. Some skills overlap with one another. Leadership, for example, encompasses a number of other skills including decision making, verbal communication, planning, organising, and collaboration.
Personal attributes that contribute to overall employability include commitment, adaptability, honesty and integrity, reliability, ability to deal with pressure, motivation, and cultural fit with the employing organisation.
First year students take note – it’s never too early to start!