As well as learning the skills relevant to your degree, your time at uni is an invaluable chance to make yourself more employable by improving your transferable or “soft” skills, which can be applied to any job. Here are three skills you can develop during your degree and how to take them further.
1. Interpersonal skills
Almost every degree involves some form of group work where your communication skills are put to the test, so you’ll be gaining some interpersonal skills whether you like it or not. You can take this a step further by seeking out situations where you are dealing with new people – even if meeting new people isn’t really your thing, there are benefits to be had that future-you will be thankful for!
How to improve?
Big firms often put on information evenings to introduce themselves to future graduates, so in this case, they’re the ones keen to meet you! (And they generally have snacks too if that’s more of an incentive!) Your university might also put on events such as alumni talks which are open to students. Sites like Eventbrite and Meetup are another great way to find interesting events. They often feature talks from smaller local businesses, which provide an opportunity to learn more about the industry and make connections that could lead to valuable internships and more. The key thing to remember is to approach networking as a way to meet interesting new people – don’t get too hung up on the idea of getting something out of it, and be open to the possibility that you could be the one able to help someone else.
2. Teamwork and leadership
Again group projects come to mind, but you can go so much further than that. Simply joining a university club or society is a great starting point, and you can join the committee or volunteer at their events to get even more out of the experience. You’ll probably make friends for life, and you might even find that you shine in a role you’d never have considered before! Employers also look for this because it shows that you have a life beyond your studies and can manage your time effectively.
How to improve?
Start your own club
Start your own society if one doesn’t exist for your specific hobby or sport. This is not one to do just for the sake of your CV since you’ll actually be required to keep the society going and help it grow, but it will certainly impress employers if you can say that you took the initiative!
A great short-term way to practice leading is to enter a team into a competition – there are lots of course-related challenges which have the added bonus of being relevant to your degree, but plenty of competitions will leave you with an incredibly valuable set of skills regardless of the actual topic! The same applies to organising events or fundraisers – a certain time commitment is required, but once it’s done and dusted you have a unique conversation starter for interviews which you can tie in with so many other skills too!
3. Entrepreneurial attitude
Another important skill employers look for, perhaps better described as a mindset, is an enterprising outlook. Being entrepreneurial doesn’t mean you have to be the next Mark Zuckerberg – this is more about the attitude, which employers value as it shows resourcefulness, resilience and initiative. Being at uni is bound to make you resourceful – after all, students are famed for their crazy – err, innovative – solutions to all sorts of problems. It’s important to take this mentality with you once you graduate too: keep questioning current methods, looking for better ways to solve things. If you can demonstrate that you have this attitude in your CV by talking about situations where you noticed an area you could improve and took action, employers will be keen to have you on board to help them find solutions too!
How to improve?
Many universities try and foster entrepreneurship through workshops, competitions and support schemes, but there are plenty of ways to independently nurture the thinking through podcasts, blogs, free online courses and more. This willingness to learn outside of uni shows an enterprising attitude that companies love!
Making sure you are developing your skills above and beyond those you can gain just by showing up will set you apart from the thousands of other students across the country, and as you can see it doesn’t have to take much!
Words: Chris Smith from Spend It Like Beckham
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