As the graduate job market becomes increasingly competitive, it is more important than ever to stand out from the crowd with more than just a good degree.
Ideally, you will have gained some work experience either before or during your time at university but, if not, there are so many other opportunities available to you whilst at university which will help you to develop these key skills and competencies outside of your degree course.
In 2012, the university, in partnership with Robertson Cooper, began to develop the ‘Manchester Employability Model’ to establish which behavioural qualities made graduates most employable and allowed them to progress quickly into an ‘aspirational’ graduate level job.
Below, alongside these 5 ‘behaviours’ you will see some of the competencies listed as requirements by a selection of The Times top ten graduate employers (2013). This just shows how essential it is to begin to explore these areas whilst still at university- you will already be expected to demonstrate these skills in the application process for graduate jobs during, or soon after, your final year.
Luckily, you will be picking up many of these skills whilst at university without even trying! A maths degree will help you to develop your problem solving and organisational skills as well as logical thinking, attention to detail and analysis and interpretation of data. If you take part in any group work or presentations, these are great sources to draw examples of many of these skills from. Also, you are networking and making connections almost every day during your degree, follow up meetings with interesting or helpful people and keep in touch on social media. Connect with friends, tutors and professionals who visit the university- these contacts could prove invaluable to you in the future.
Many of the other skills required by employers are easy to gain by taking on extra responsibilities during your time at university. For example, it is easy to provide examples of teamwork and leadership if you are part of a university sports team or help to run a society. Becoming a Student Representative or Student Ambassador are great examples of having strong communication skills and also show leadership, organisation and the ability to work successfully within a team. Becoming a PASS leader in second year will demonstrate your ability to coach and develop both yourself and others. Taking on any of these extra-curricular activities and responsibilities will also prove that you are focussed and resourceful and have a strong work ethic and commitment to self-improvement.
Some skills are a little harder to develop and you will have to put the time and work in to prove to an employer that you have them. For example- competencies such as commercial awareness, role-related knowledge and career motivation will really show that you are investigating your options and will demonstrate an active interest in increasing your employability. These are the skills that will really set you apart from other candidates, so it is worth mastering them at university whilst you have plenty of help and advice on hand if you need it.
These skills can’t be taught in a lecture and aren’t really things which you can pick up from others. They require really knowing what you want to do next, taking an interest in that business area, following sector trends and knowing how they would affect an employer. You should be able to confidently discuss and share your opinion on these issues in an interview or presentation. A great way to keep up to date with organisations and industry news is to join LinkedIn or Twitter. Social Media is a great way to follow industry news and events, you can find more information on our Social Media page. Simply setting your home screen to BBC News, or reading anything from The Metro to The Economist, are easy ways to keep up to date with current affairs. TARGETjobs' page on Commercial Awareness provides some more advice and tips on how to develop your business acumen.
It is important to take time to reflect on things you have taken part in whilst at university and consider what you have learnt from them and how you could improve in future. Even if you have failed at something, establishing where you went wrong and learning from the experience will show employers that you are resilient and can handle set-backs and use them to improve. Being able to articulate these things is an essential skill for interviews; many people will have developed these skills but will not be able to put them across to employers during the application process. Taking part in the Interviewer Programme, either as an applicant or interviewer, is great practice for this.
As well as reflecting on your own progress and recording your achievements you may wish to take the MyFuture- Next Steps Questionnaire. It is a personalised report, generated by your answers to a self-assessment questionnaire. Based on the Manchester Employability Model, it highlights actions you could take to move your career forward and how urgent it is that you take action if you want to make a flying start in a career of your choice, shortly after graduating. The report includes some specific suggestions for actions in five critical areas and will help you develop the skills and competencies required to make you stand out to employers.
For additional guidance and advice you may wish to arrange to meet with a Careers Consultant through The Careers Service and keep your academic advisor up to date with your career and employability progress.