The Hidden Skills: How to recognise the skills you learnt during your studies
When you're leaving university and looking at the daunting world of full-time work, it can be hard to know exactly what abilities you have gained over your years of study that are actually desirable to employers- after all, while a degree in English, Art History, or Biology (and many other subjects) may be interesting and worthwhile from an academic perspective, what marketable skills does it actually leave you with?
How can you possibly compete with the other graduates out there who have great degrees and are also looking for work? Don't despair - you're better placed than you think. Here you'll find a quick, and hopefully reassuring, guide to what employers actually want, and the hidden skills you already have.
Be a Team Player
All employers want to hire people who can work well with others. The good news is that this skill will definitely have been honed during your degree, whether inside the seminar room or out of it. Did you complete any projects with others? Take part in a sports team? Were you a member of any committees? Highlight this experience on your CV or application form.
All work has its challenges, so anyone looking to hire new staff wants to know that candidates can think fast and solve problems efficiently. Think about your experience in problem-solving to date: if you did a Maths degree, then that should be easy! If you're a Humanities grad, think laterally (you should be good at that). What challenges have you faced in your studies? How did you overcome them successfully?
Ability to Communicate
This is more than just being a persuasive talker or a "people person". It's writing well, cutting across cultural boundaries, and being diplomatic in a difficult situation. If you studied English or History, no doubt you'll be a great writer. If you did languages - well, even better. If you're a scientist, explain how you're able to get across complex ideas and theories in a succinct and engaging way to non-specialists. All degrees allow you to develop your communication skills.
Planning and Prioritising Workload
In these days of ever-higher living costs and tuition fees, most students juggle part-time jobs along with studying and extra-curricular commitments, and maybe even fit some travelling in too. If you can clearly explain a time when you were able to handle conflicting priorities (such as an essay deadline, a shift in the bar, and a weekend sports fixture), you'll show you possess maturity and an ability to plan ahead, both of which are highly marketable skills.
Research and Analytical Skills
Graduate jobs will usually want capable young people who are able to obtain and process large amounts of information quickly. Of course, you already know how to do this- whether it's analysing your lab results, undertaking academic research in a library collection or doing a literature review, you already know how to find information and get answers- all you need to do is give a concrete example of this to a potential employer, and you'll have an instant advantage.