There are certain things that graduate recruiters in every sector will look for. No matter whether you’re looking for a role in an NGO or a private business, as a retailer or an accountant.
And guess what? None of them relate to your degree class, university type or academic choices.
Although academic requirements can vary between sectors, recruiting managers the world over are looking for the soft skills that will make you fit and flourish in your new world. Here are the top skills you need to land a job straight out of uni - and, more importantly, how to get them!
Communication is about more than being able to talk, read or write. It’s about being able to convey meaning and understand the subtleties of message, in a complex political environment. Your academic qualifications will pay testament to your ability to communicate the written word, but for the kind of everyday ‘on the fly’ communicating we do in a working environment, nothing beats work experience. Success in voluntary work, internships and part time jobs show that you’ve mastered the lost art of communication and can hit the ground running in your new role. Shoot for an international internship program to make even more of the experience.
Teamwork and Collaboration
Recruiters will be thinking about the way you might fit into their existing team, working alongside a varied group of people with different backgrounds and individual agendas. Working experience gives you this exposure, but so does playing a team sport, or being an organizer in university events. And you thought the best thing about organizing freshers week was the cheap beer.
Businesses recruiting at graduate level need leaders. They are recruiting not for this job but the next role level, and looking to find people who can influence those around them, as well as fitting into a team. Influence is often a criteria examined in assessment days and interviews, and although some influencing skills come naturally, much is learned. Any opportunity to lead others will help you develop these skills, with public speaking, student politics, or voluntary work with college access programs being other ways to nourish your inner influencer. If you're involved in charitable or social projects, consider applying for grants like this Commonwealth CSO fund, to support your activities as well as learning how to influence through the written word.
Flexibility and Adaptability
No matter what field you are in, things seldom stay the same for long. Demonstrating flexibility will give a recruiter confidence that you can grow with the business, rather than being left behind when change, inevitably, comes. Developing these skills at university is all about putting yourself out of your comfort zone. Taking an opportunity to study abroad is a perfect way to show your ability to adapt to your surroundings - try these top places to study abroad for ideas.
Critical Analysis and Recommendation
In most, if not all, graduate jobs, you are paid to have an informed opinion. You are valued for your ‘fresh eyes’ and unique outlook, and grads can often come up with innovative solutions to long standing business problems simply because they do not suffer the burden of previous experience. Get used to forming an informed and critical opinion, and offering action steps. If your course does to allow for this then educate yourself, get involved in student politics or support causes in your local community - even simply watching powerful TED talks will help you see how persuasive speakers analyse and move forward complex issues and ideas.
Being a thinker is important - but recruiters also look for evidence that you'll get on and ‘do’. Get proactive and enter some student competitions to showcase your determination - you could win great prizes and travel opportunities like this chance to travel to Frankfurt. Not only are the prizes in themselves great development opportunities, you will be growing your communication and lateral thinking skills by applying too.
Creative Problem Solving
Some employees present their boss with a problem. Others bring the problem, but accompany it with a solution. It is the latter that thrive. There is no better way to learn creative problem solving than ‘on the job’. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone, in an internship that is intended to stretch your abilities, is a sure fire way to find yourself presented with challenges. And faced with a challenge, your natural problem solving self appears. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention.
Goal Setting and Visioning
Employers want to know that you're someone who will set themselves goals and go after them. Attending university in itself isn't enough to do that. One of the best ways to develop and showcase your ability to envision your future and set yourself goals is by planning your career. Create a compelling narrative during your uni years which shows how you combine academic study, work experience, and the pursuit of other growth opportunities. Think about the story your experience tells and try to balance internships, experience and participation in student groups to cover a variety of learning opportunities over the course of your uni years.
Most graduate level roles will include some degree of project management, as you will be dealing with changing focus and new environments, rather than repetitive and routine tasks. This is a truly satisfying part of working in a graduate level role, but does require a specific attitude and skill set. If you're writing a thesis or delivering a project as part of your course then you have a head start, but if not, gather these skills throughout getting involved in organizing voluntary or student led projects outside your studies.
As a new graduate your book learning days might be done, but that does not mean it's time to give your brain a break. In fact, the hard work has only just begun, as employers will demand that you proactively update your skills and keep up to date without prompting. Start this habit now. Taking part in an experience like this Global Undergraduate Exchange Program shows your dedication to getting the most out of your learning experience.
It's a long list, but don't be put off - to acquire most of these skills, the message is the same. Study hard, get good grades - but don't stop there. Use your uni years to explore and develop the skills employers really want, through work experience, internships, volunteering, travel and extra curricular activities. Your grades might get your toe in the door, when you're applying for grad roles, but it will be these soft skills that see the red carpet welcome rolled out for you.