#UniAdvice – 7 Ways to Enhance your University Experience

University studentsWhat thoughts come to mind when you reflect on your time at University? If you could go back in time and start out again, would you do anything differently? For students currently in Higher Education, have you ever thought about what you want to take away from your time at University? 

The answers to the questions posed above are quite revealing. Recent graduates says things like ‘I wish I had focused on identifying and developing, skills, attributes and more importantly, relationships that were necessary to succeed after University.‘ Interestingly, for the most part, current students tell us that they want to finish with a good degree (2:1) and have some fun while doing it. There is nothing wrong with having a good time at Uni, in fact, it is advisable you do! This article is about thinking of ways to make the most of the relatively short time you spend in Higher Education.

Begin with the end in mind – While graduation may seem a long way off in your first year, sooner or later your course will come to an end. Apart from a degree certificate, what else are you going to leave with? ‘Beginning with the end in mind’ is a concept that was first described by Stephen Covey in his best selling book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.’ This is about reflecting on where you want to be at the end of an endeavour before you start out. In other words, throughout your time at Uni, think about what you want to leave with. This allows you to modify your thinking and actions towards SMART goals to get you there. This enables you recognise and  maximise resources at your disposal. How do you want your CV to look on the day you graduate? Start working on it from Day 1!

Experience, experience, experience – If you do not do anything else while at University, try and get some relevant experience. The key word being relevant. If you are studying for a degree in Biomedical Science today in the UK, it will be near on impossible to get into a graduate training position without some laboratory experience. Having a part time job in a bar may provide some much needed funds but just won’t cut it for the type of job you are after. This is because Universities are churning out graduates by the thousands each year and there are just so many jobs. Even if it is an unpaid internship, see it as an investment in your future. Another benefit besides making yourself more employable is that you can decide if that profession is for you or not. Believe us, you do not want to get stuck in a career that you derive no satisfaction from.

Get involved! – You’ve committed the next 3-4 years of your life to your University, you might as well get more out of it than a degree certificate. Join a Society or start one. Become a Peer Mentor, a Student representative for your course or run for the Student Union. Organise a student conference or plan a study trip that can help take your learning outside the classroom. Become a student ambassador and engage with prospective students on Open Days. If you’re that way inclined, sign up for University Challenge! Do something that shows you are able to take initiative and are innovative. Do not just go through your University, allow your University go through you too.

Use your University’s Careers service – We are constantly surprised at the number of students that pass through a University and never speak to a single Careers Adviser! These are specially trained individuals who can provide advice and help you with creating a CV, personal statement, filling in application forms, interview preparation and so much more. Most importantly, the service is free! A number of Universities now organise Career fairs and events, providing opportunities to network with prospective employers. We advise making an appointment with a Careers advisor at least once each academic year. This allows you review what you have done in the past year and identify skill gaps. You can then set goals to fill in any ‘gaps’ for the next year. It can sometimes be difficult to see the link between work experience and skills developed. A good Careers Advisor can help with that and help you enhance your CV.

Join a relevant professional body or Learned Society – Most disciplines are associated with a professional body. If you are in your 2nd or 3rd year at University and do not know which body is relevant to your discipline…there are no words! There are many advantages to joining a professional body including – careers advice tailored to your discipline, information about conferences which provide networking opportunities, grants to support you attending a conference etc. Many of these organisations offer reduced rates for students (sorry not free) but are definitely value for money.

Develop key horizontal and vertical relationships – So you want to be a lawyer, accountant or dietitian? How many professionals in your field do you know? Is it possible to ask one of them to mentor you? Mentoring (vertical upwards) relationships are very powerful in opening doors and getting a leg in. You can only get so much information online. Mentors come with a breadth and depth of experience that cannot be obtained from lectures or textbooks. What about you? You can develop mentoring relationships (vertical downwards) with students just starting out. Tell them what you wish someone had told you when you were starting out. Maintain a good relationship with your peers (horizontal). They are the future of your profession and you never know when you will need their skills and expertise.

Do your homework – What do you want to do when you finish? Get a job, start your own business, maybe both, maybe neither? Know what is required for your next step. Will professional certifications put you at an advantage? What are the main skills and attributes employers are looking for in your sector? Where are you now and what do you need to get where you want to be?

This is by no means an exhaustive list and we may do a follow up post soon. We would love to hear your thoughts too so please join the conversation by clicking the comments button.

aa-headshotAbout our writer – After completing a PhD in Microbiology, Amara is building her career in academia, teaching and supporting a new generation of scientists as well as undertaking research. Amara believes in the combined power of education and developing productive relationships as essential tools for building successful careers. She tweets @amaratweets.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share and subscribe to our network! If you have an article you would like to share with our readers, please get in touch – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

#CareerChat – 5 keys to effective networking

networkingPreviously, we wrote about taking the  first steps into networking and we received a lot of positive feedback making the second blog article on this theme even more challenging to write! If you have taken the baby steps, get ready, it’s time to run!

In the first article, we talked about five steps into networking. If you have read the first article and are now thinking about what you will do at your next event, read on.

Have a business card – We know what you are probably thinking… Why do I need a business card? Well, the person you meet at a conference or workshop needs to remember you.  You may have an awesome smile or an impressive handshake but your new contact needs to remember your name. A business card not only provides your contact details but projects professionalism.  We encourage final year undergraduate as well as postgraduate students to take business cards to networking events. Business  cards are relatively easy to design and will not break the bank. There are now free templates available online. Keep the design simple and be sure to include all your professional contact details.

Set yourself a target of cultivating at least one new relationship at every event you attend. 

Keep an open mind – The tendency to gravitate towards people who look, sound and act like you is natural. However, when you think about it, you have that in your everyday life already. The opportunity to engage with people of diverse backgrounds and disciplines is one that can enrich your experience in more ways than you can imagine. Regardless of what rung you are on your career ladder, there are people who are interested in engaging with you and would like to share their knowledge and expertise with you. Why not take the chance and move out of your comfort zone?

On a personal note, we have benefited from keeping an open mind and our individual and collective network comprises people we would have never crossed paths with. For example, we have international musicians (Like seriously), actors (oh yes!!), teachers, business owners, politicians and most importantly GREAT FRIENDS in our network. All of these relationships started with a ‘Hello, my name is…’ For postgraduate researchers, we advise attending networking events outside of your subject especially if you don’t want to stay in academia.

Stay focused – Previously, we mentioned the importance of being prepared before approaching potential contacts. The next thing to keep in mind is not to make a fool of yourself! Surprised? Well we’ll explain. Usually at events of a professional nature there are other competing activities such as FREE flowing wine or alcohol, canapés and without question, smart and gorgeous looking people ahem! ahem! Whilst all these things are part of the niceties of attending events, several people usually fall into this trap and get carried away. If you want to have a great, fun time at your event, great! But then it might be wise not to let people know who you are!

Knowing when to stop the waiter(s) pouring more and more wine into your glass might just be the personal attribute that will land you a job with a potential employer. Also, displaying chauvinistic, lecherous or any inappropriate behaviour is definitely not the type of impression you want to leave behind. To be honest, we have observed a lot of incidents before! The point to remember here is poor, loud and indiscreet behaviour is a sure recipe for NEGATIVE perception and often irreparable public image. Remember, we live in a world where poor or bad behaviour always gets greater publicity.

At professional events, what happens in Vegas may not stay in Vegas! Stay focused.

When it doesn’t go well  – Sometimes in the process of making or engaging with a contact, you might get the cold shoulder or an unfavourable response. We have all been there. Sometimes when it happens it can be a little embarrassing but hey, nothing good comes easy right? It’s like the toss of a coin, you’ll either get heads or tails and unless you are a sorcerer you cannot predict the outcome. That goes for networking too. You cannot predict the outcome before you start speaking to a stranger at an event but you will surely learn from the experience. We have many personal experiences where we have been rebuffed, given the cold shoulder and all sorts (you can contact us for these stories if you want at a price….just kidding)! At the same time, we have had the best and some of the greatest people in our world, connect with us. So remember, whatever happens, don’t give up, and keep at it.

Follow up – A senior colleague suggests to always ask if you can contact the individuals you meet at these events at a later date when speaking to them. More than anything else always make a point to re-engage with your contacts after the events – which is the purpose of networking. You have already made the effort to speak to the individuals in the first instance, why not take the extra step to develop a productive relationship. Many of the people you might speak to at these events have been where you are now and understand what it takes to get to where you need to be. It does not have to be anything over-elaborate in your contact email. A simple “Hello, it was nice to meet you at…..” can go a long way in changing your career and your future.

As a matter of fact, this blog is a product of networking at a microbiology research conference in Manchester six years ago which shows what you can achieve when you take that bold step….So, hopefully you are ready to build your network and again you are welcome to connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter as we are always happy to engage with you.

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#CareerChat – New to networking? Start with these baby steps

9. NetworkingAre you one of those people that can walk into a busy room and leave an hour later, having spoken to people you’ve never met before and made new valuable contacts? To you, our old pros at networking, we say well done and feel free to look away at this point and check out our other articles. To many aspiring professionals we have encountered, networking can often be a painful, daunting and scary experience and tends to be something they’d rather avoid doing. 

In today’s connected world, networking, be it face to face or online has become hugely important. Whilst many ideas or definitions of networking exist, we have identified one which is perfect for networking beginners

‘Networking is the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.’

Merriam-Webster dictionary

You might be a recent graduate looking for a job, an early career scientist looking for a solution to an experiment you have been struggling with or a budding poet or writer looking to get your work published or you might simply be in a new city and need to interact with like-minded people. If so and for so many other reasons, then you will benefit from networking. Honestly in our opinion, every aspiring professional benefits from networking.

In this article, we will focus on five baby steps into the world of networking and in the follow up article (Part II) we will provide tips to make your networking experience more effective and even enjoyable.

So, where to begin????

Location, location, location – Realising where to network can ensure you recognise opportunities to network that are not seemingly obvious. Conferences and meetings are very good venues for networking but they are by no means the only places where you can network. Networking is about cultivating relationships. In your current place of employment, how many productive relationships have you developed in the last week…month…year?

Think about networking events as a marketplace. People rarely go to the market empty handed, its all about exchange – give and take. 

There is no perfect place to network. For students, interacting with other students at college or university, engaging with tutors,  joining societies or doing a sport can be good places to start. For researchers, businesses or other professionals; attending networking events, themed seminars, workshops, exhibitions, trade shows and conferences are key areas for developing and building networks. For students and professionals alike, creating profiles on social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, ResearchGate, Mendeley and Facebook provides limitless opportunities for networking on a global scale. Social networking can also support advertising for your goods and services if you run a business.

If you will be going to a networking event or a conference sometime in the near future, why not task yourself to make at least one new meaningful professional contact? Come on, you can do it!

Be Prepared – In most cases, a list of names and organisation represented or the people/delegates who will attend the event is published beforehand and included in your delegate pack/meeting information. Take a few minutes and look at the list and identify any individuals of interest, who cultivating a relationship with may be beneficial to you in whatever capacity. It always looks good when you approach someone and you know something about them, things like, where they are from or what they do as it serves as an ice-breaker for conversation. It is also important that you see the relationship you would like to develop as a symbiotic one, where both parties benefit. Networking is about what you can do for someone else as much as what they can do for you.

Think about networking events as a marketplace. People rarely go to the market empty handed, its all about exchange – give and take. 

Start small – If you consider yourself a beginner or newbie to networking then it is best to start small i.e. grow into it as it is not about the number of people you speak to or make contact with but whether the contact translates into a positive outcome. Networking is not a competition or a ‘notice me’ venture. If you are able to make one useful contact from a meeting with a 1,000 delegates, still count it as success. We get better by doing, so set yourself a goal before you set out!

But I am not a natural – Some of us have laid back, reserved or quiet personalities which makes us hesitant in approaching people to speak to them at events. Whilst as a long term objective we would advise to look for ways to grow in confidence in speaking to people and speaking publicly, as a starting point, it also helps to ask someone you already know to introduce you to the person you would like to speak to.  If you do not know anyone else at the event, perhaps speak to the event organisers and ask if they can connect you with the lady or gentleman you want to network with and more often than not, they’ll be happy to do so! We would recommend the book, ‘The fine art of small talk‘ by Debra Fine to start working on developing your confidence. In our experience, most people are usually happy to talk at events so why not take a plunge. What’s the worst that could happen?

Gone in 30 Seconds – Once you get the chance to interact with your contact or the person(s) you have identified, remember, they do not have all the time in the world to speak to you.  Be clear, concise, friendly and engaging. Offer them a firm handshake, make eye contact and remember the first few seconds do really matter. We call it Gone in 30 seconds because first impressions do matter and failure to make the right impression would ensure your contact leaves you flat footed in their wake.

Therefore, use the first few seconds wisely but before you approach your contact, “think about what you want from the contact AND also what you have to offer

Get started with building your online professional profile, think about your skills and abilities and look for events and conferences where you can find like-minded people. In the follow up article, we will offer tips to ensure you have an enjoyable and worthwhile networking experience.

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#UniAdvice – So you didn’t get a Desmond? How to ‘fail forward’

Are you a Damien, Billy, Desmond or Thora? Although I’m a Damien, I have friends, family and students who didn’t quite make a Desmond.  Now before you think I may have lost my marbles, I recently found out that these names are used to describe degree classifications based on rhyming slang of the surnames of some famous people. Are you a Damien (Hirst – 1st), Billy (Gunn – 2:1), Desmond (Tutu – 2:2) or a Thora (Thora Hird – 3rd)?  While preparing our previous article on graduate employment, we touched on the point of degree classification and would like to go into further detail here.

7-failureSo you didn’t make a Desmond. You’ve spent 3, 4 or more years at University working towards a degree and now you’ve finished not even with a 2nd lower (Let my people go…lol) but with a third class degree. Before the doom and gloom sets in, be encouraged that there can be success after a third. Not that there will be but that there can be. Whether it happens or not is really up to you. I worked very hard for my degree and I make no apologies for it. I recognised early in my studies that it would be important for me to excel academically to achieve the career goals I had set for myself and that was my motivation. I am mighty proud I did because it was and still is a tremendous achievement. However, for a number of reasons, not everyone does. As a teacher, I am disappointed to see some of my students finish with a third but I realise this this is far from the end of their story.

This article isn’t about sugarcoating the issue in ‘motivational speak.’ If you have finished with a third, it means you have in essence failed at Higher Education. You have failed to meet most of the assessment criteria set in the subjects you have studied. You cannot prove to have a good knowledge of a discipline you have been studying for a number of years. If you have studied in the UK, more often than not you are in debt to the tune of some thousands of pounds. What this article is saying is that while you may have failed at University, you haven’t failed at life.

Lewis Carrol, most famously known for penning ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was an English writer, mathematician and Anglican cleric. Carol Vorderman is a maths whizz and is best known for co-hosting popular programme ‘Countdown.’ Gani Fawehinmi was a human and civil rights lawyer who was also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). All three completed their first degrees with a 3rd. All three ‘failed forward’ from that and became very successful in their chosen careers.

Be honest with yourself – Why did you finish with a third? As University lecturers, we teach all types of students. We observe some students who genuinely struggle academically and may have made the wrong course choice. We note those who are just indifferent. University is just the next place to go after completing A Levels and it is sort of what is expected of them. These students just want to coast through the next few years until they have to make a decision on what to do with their lives. Some students have a life changing experience (death of a loved one, accident, mental health issue) occur during their studies that they never really recover from. Reflecting on your answer to the question of Why? can help you decide what to do next and will be useful for interview preparation because you may have to discuss this so be prepared. If you truly believe you have made the wrong course choice, spend time finding out what you are good at. Utilise the Careers Service in your University and if you don’t have one, find a professional in that area to discuss with.

How much does it matter? – It depends on what you want to do next. If you want to progress into a postgraduate degree, teach or get onto a graduate scheme at a top firm then yes it really does matter. If you want to write a best selling novel, work in art/design or create the next Facebook, then maybe not. What do you want to do next? Has University taught you that you don’t want to be an employee but an entrepreneur? Please read our article on identifying your skills and create a list of your skills and abilities. Compare your list with the skill set required in your preferred role(s) and identify where your skills come short. Identify the gaps and search for training opportunities to fill them e.g. professional exams. Remember that your transferable skills are marketable across sectors!

Be proactive – In today’s job market, a first or 2:1 is not an assurance of immediate employment. Beyond academic abilities, employers are looking for particular skills, competencies and attributes. While studies indicate that more employers now ask for a 2:1 as minimum, this is because more and more students are now finishing with 2:1’s. I have two friends who finished with firsts who could not get a graduate job for months after completing their degree. The first worked as a care assistant and the other as a waitress. They are both now in graduate employment. During her interview, my friend’s boss was so impressed that she hadn’t turned her nose down on waitressing because he too worked as a waiter when he finished Uni and was job hunting 30 years before! Do not be too proud to ‘stoop to conquer.’ In my experience, small and medium size companies are more willing to overlook degree classification than bigger companies.

It is always harder to climb the mountain when starting from the bottom but the view is the same when you get to the top, regardless of where you started.

A young friend of mine recently finished with a third and is now working in a small firm where he is getting hands on training and enjoying it. In two years time, he will be able to take professional exams and will be more marketable. A Financial Director of an asset management firm told me ‘When it comes down to it, I will always offer a job to the candidate who is most hungry for it.’ A third may start you off on the wrong foot but nothing stops you from re-balancing and putting your best foot forward. Failing forward means realising the difference between failing at something and being a failure. One is an event, the other is an attitude or way of life.

aa-headshotAbout our writer – After completing a PhD in Microbiology, Amara is building her career in academia, teaching and supporting a new generation of scientists as well as undertaking research. Amara believes in the combined power of education and developing productive relationships as essential tools for building successful careers. She tweets @amaratweets.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share and subscribe to our network! If you have an article you would like to share with our readers, please get in touch – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

#UniAdvice – 5 Things you never get told about graduate employment!

5-job-applicationA common theme that arises in our conversations with ‘soon to graduate’ students is that of employment. Whilst graduation is undoubtedly something worth celebrating, that thought of ‘what happens next’ can evoke a range of emotions from excitement to panic! Things are beginning to look up after the global recession in 2008, however, a large proportion of graduates ‘churned’ out every year are now finding that the hardest job for a recent graduate is actually getting that first job. One of the many reasons we started this blog was to empower graduates with knowledge to navigate the often murky waters of graduate employment.

This article is for all graduates, regardless of level of education (A Levels, BTECs, Bachelors, Masters and PhD). In our experience, the more advanced your education, the more challenging it could be when job hunting. This is because while you are becoming more specialist in your knowledge base, you tend to be focusing in one particular area. It’s not all doom and gloom though, before you think of throwing in the towel, we hope this article will be able to provide some advice to help in your job search. These are things while seemingly obvious, we wish someone had told us at some point while studying.

Start early! – While you don’t need to start job hunting in Fresher’s week, how many of us actually thought about how our CV needed to look at graduation whilst undertaking our degree? How many opportunities to enhance our CVs do we miss because it seems like too much work at the time. Activities such as volunteering, being a student representative, starting or running a student society, joining a Learned Society, undertaking an internship, learning a new language, being a peer mentor, writing a blog or research article etc. Begin to stand out from the crowd!

Graduating is only the beginning! – Achieving your degree should be the beginning of your journey as an aspiring professional. As a friend got told after completing his doctoral studies ‘Well done, now it is time to go prove yourself’. I bet many who have gone through this stage would echo the same sentiments following their experiences. So, if you are coming to the end of your bachelors degree, masters, or even PhD, remember this is only just the beginning. So you’ve got a degree? Welcome to a club that includes millions of others…start thinking about what your unique selling points (USP) are!

How hard can it be? – Well, don’t get me wrong, some new graduates succeed in their first attempt at applying for a graduate job. This is not the norm though as most people apply for an incredible number of jobs before they get a reply or are considered for interview.  A point to mention here is that application for and seeking graduate job opportunities is very time consuming. This is something that takes many by surprise. To get a good job, you’ll have to invest a great amount of time and pay a great deal of attention to the job specification and requirements. Future posts will cover techniques to approach job applications such as filling in forms, preparing personal statements and conquering the interview.

But I don’t have a 2:1! – To many graduates, the degree classification is the end point. Well, sorry to burst your bubble. Some graduates believe their chances of a job are limited because they lack the ‘first class’ degrees or ‘distinctions’ at postgraduate level. We’ll do a post (so many things to write…) on ‘Success after a third class degree.’  Whilst educational qualifications are very important; depending on your discipline; they may not be the most important thing.  As a graduate, it is important you identify your unique selling point (USP) as this will determine how you approach prospective employers and job opportunities. Employers are looking for skills, not just what you know but what you can do. This is why getting experience in your field whilst studying is one of the best things that can boost your chances of getting a job when you finish.

 Your inability to articulate your ability can make you a liability

The scatter-gun approach to job application – For anyone reading this article, you might recognise this as your style of job hunting. If you are confused by what we mean by the scatter-gun approach then I’ll explain. Many graduates get frustrated applying for jobs and make the mistake of sending the same CV and covering letter to every job under the sun. It’s like chatting up every guy or girl at a bar using the same chat-up line. You wouldn’t do that would you?  If that is your approach, well, its 2015 so it’s a new year and we won’t judge you this time! On a serious note, it is lazy practice to use the scattergun approach hence the key advice here is to be innovative and adapt your CV, covering letter and profile to suit the specific job(s) you are applying for.

Yes, yes, it’s tough out there and we won’t attempt to suggest otherwise. However, not knowing what one is able to do is more limiting than the paucity of the job market. For example, a lot of biological or medical science graduates generally assume the only jobs available to them are laboratory or hospital based roles, teaching or lecturing or if fortunate within the scientific or pharmaceutical industry. As we addressed in our last article, the skills you have developed are key to your success in the job market and “your job market is only as big as the skills you possess” thus, as a science graduate, you could work in several environments such as media, financial institutions, politics, communications and so on (we will address these specific core areas in subsequent articles). When you identify your transferable skills, you realise that the world can really be your oyster.

It is important that whatever your field of employment, that you start making good contacts as early as possible and Networking. We’ve found that many opportunities come through recommendations, individual and group networks so whatever your current situation, start connecting with others using various media such as LinkedIn, Twitter to develop your professional network.

The time to plan your career is NOW. It is important that you always think about what you can offer rather than what can be offered to you

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#UniAdvice: How to create a winning CV!

Having recently organized a successful CV workshop at an international conference for early career scientists, we became aware of the need for an article on writing CVs. This article will highlight some of the key elements of what is important in a CV and also important tips to consider when designing your CV.

A key element of a job application process is the CV. So what exactly is a CV and why is it so important? Careerplanning.about.com describes a CV as ‘a written description of your work experience, educational background and skills.’ Whilst this is a good definition, I prefer to describe the CV in a more personal way as – ‘the reflection of your professional self on paper representing you in front of a potential employer’. Thus, what should be documented on your CV should be what you would be happy to show to a potential employer and also what you can objectively defend if necessary.

So what should be included in your CV? Firstly, generic identifiers such as your name, address, email and phone contact details. In some countries, other identifiers are usually found on the CV such as age, date of birth, state of origin and a photo. In the UK and other countries with strong employment and anti-discriminatory laws, identifiers such as age and place of origin are not required on the CV.

Next, write a short profile that clearly states the objective of your CV. An example of this could be ‘Highly numerate accounting and finance graduate with experience working in an international finance company. I am seeking a career in financial planning.” The profile section should be tailored to suit the job or company you are applying to.

#CareerChat – The ‘nuts’ and ‘bolts’ of transferable skills

3-skill-wordsPicture this. You get onto a bus and see a gentleman selling health supplements. In an effort to sell his wares, he sparks the interest of his target market by sounding knowledgeable and intelligent about the constituents of his products. His witty and humorous communication style engages the audience and by the time he mentions that he is selling at ‘a one day special reduced rate’, they no longer need convincing. Within a few minutes, he has convinced a bunch of strangers to part with their money.

Alongside ‘knowledge’ of his products (subject specific skills), the gentleman has demonstrated other skills such as: communication, research, literacy, self-awareness, presentation and confidence. A more introspective look at the mentioned skills and you will note that these skills are used in almost every job type or sector including; hospitality, academia, finance, management, media etc. These generic skills are known as transferable skills and differ from subject specialist skills which are specific to a particular profession. The clue in the name being that that these are skills you can ‘transfer’ from one professional field to another.

Transferable skills are skills and abilities that are relevant across different areas of life; professionally as well as socially.

Note that as important as the sales man’s knowledge about the product was, it was his ability to connect with the audience that enabled him succeed in selling his wares. Similarly, your transferable skills set can be the ‘extra’ that differentiates you from other candidates and enables you succeed in getting your dream job

The good news is that we all already have transferable skills because we start developing them as early as when we are in school. Were you a school prefect? You were already developing leadership and problem solving skills. Were you a part of the debating society? You were already developing communication, team work and research skills.

So what are these skills? The UK transferable skills framework provides the following list;

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Self-management
  • Digital (IT)
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Planning and organising
  • Research and analysing
  • Leadership and supervising
  • Resilience, adaptability and drive

Now let’s reflect. Which of these skills do you have? Where have you displayed these? Have you highlighted them in your CV?

If no, what are you waiting for?

An awareness and understanding of transferable skills enables one recognise and therefore take opportunities where these skills could be developed. Skill profiles are increasingly being used by employers to identify suitable employees. Graduates come a dime a dozen these days, so make yourself unique by developing an unmatched skills profile.

How can you develop transferable skills? First, identify the gaps between your skill set and what potential employers are looking for. Take every opportunity to utilise these skills both professionally and socially. We learn and develop by doing.   Remember this quote from Thomas Edison that ‘opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’

Opportunities to develop key transferable skills.

Communication – Writing articles, reports, dissertations, and minutes of meetings. Giving presentations and lectures, participation in a debating society.

Team work – Membership of a sports team, committee responsible for organising an event, being part of the Student Union, any responsibility that requires team effort.

IT and digital skills – Proficient use of word processing, blogging, data analysis, presentation programmes and use of the internet.

It is essential to take the initiative and start developing transferable skills that you have recognised as being key in your chosen field.  Evidence showing how you have utilised transferable skills must be well articulated in your CVs, personal statements as well as in interviews. Experience doesn’t have to be everything!

Success is a process and not a destination so keep working at it. All the best!

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