So you’re at university, probably more stressed about doing well on your exams than thinking about what job you may eventually have. Or maybe you know exactly what you want to do, and think that you will find a job once you graduate. Regardless of where you are about awareness of your future goals, one thing is certain: at some point, you are going to need a job. Perhaps even a summer job, or part-time work to pay for all the extras you want, like parties, holidays, or a future gap year.
But finding good jobs is harder than most people realise. Think about it – just in your year at university, there are thousands of other students. Every one of them, to a certain degree, qualified. There are hundreds of thousands of such students across the country. There are also people who are already in the workforce, have work experience, and might be going for the same job. Sometimes, even very experienced people end up competing with graduates because they are changing careers.
So against such qualified competition, how can you stand out? How can you make sure that when you leave university, it’s not just with a degree, but also with essential skills for the job market?
The truth is that while the knowledge of your subject may be important, depending on how specialised your field is, it is the more general workplace skills that will be more important to your future success in the workplace. Employers are already finding it difficult to get skilled employees. However, what that means is that if you have the right skills, you will be at a distinct advantage.
Some examples of these skills include:NetworkingA lot of business relationships, including recruitment, promotions and deals happen because of who you know, and who knows you. Networking and being able to connect with and develop relationships with people is a very important skill.Time ManagementYou think multiple exams are stressful? In a workplace, you may end up managing multiple projects, while dealing with the regular day-to-day communication and meetings, hundreds of emails, and anything else that comes up. Time management is a key skill to retain your health and sanity.Presentation SkillsWhether you work in academia, in private sector, or in public sector, at some point you will end up having to present your ideas to people. This happens more and more frequently once you get past entry level. It’s essential to develop good presentation skills that hold people’s attention, and get them on board with your ideas.TeamworkNothing is a solo venture in a workplace, no matter how independent your role may be. You will need approvals, use your colleagues’ expertise, make a case for budgets, and be someone who plays well with others.TenacityYou are surviving three years of University. So you’ve probably got some tenacity. Thats great! Keep building on that. Tenacity is an essential skill in the workplace. It is a skill that can be developed throughout your regular life, and will be useful both in your personal and professional life.LeadershipYou are the leaders of tomorrow. It’s cliché but true. So build your leadership capabilities by joining clubs and groups across university, and being on a committee. Organise and lead events. Don’t just be a participant on other people’s ventures. Start your own.Ability to focus on the big pictureAbility to focus on the big picture, even when a lot of urgent and important things are demanding your attention is an essential skill, both in life and workplace.
These are just some of the essential skills that you can learn at university, and will be useful to you in the job market. Employers are looking for skilled workers who can adapt to a constantly changing environment. You may hear a lot about transferrable skills – that is because all of these essential skills are transferrable from one job to another, from one sector to another. You just need to provide evidence of how you acquired them, and how you can utilise them in your role.So, make the best of your university experience. Think about how you can acquire these skills in a risk free environment (you won’t get fired from university!), so that when you do enter the job market, you already have the essential skills that the employers want.