Having worked in graduate recruitment for several years and seeing the investment universities now put into employability, giving their graduates every chance to get the skills they need to succeed, I often reflect back on my time at college and wonder about what I would have done with my extra-curricular time to enhance my experience and make me more prepared for the world of work.
One of the things I definitely would have completed would have been a university skills award. As a graduate recruiter, I notice straight away if an award has been mentioned on an application. This tells me that this applicant has tried hard to develop their skill set to give themselves every opportunity to stand out from the crowd during the interview process as well as develop the confidence and skills to be successful in the workplace.
I know that this candidate has most likely been through a host of employability geared workshops, intensive skills activity days, has completed a certain number of work experience hours or been involved within societies and has then been taught how to reflect upon the skills they have gained, so should be prepared and able to deliver a good strong interview. As a recruiter I recognise this, and so will other graduate recruiters.
Most universities who organise employability awards also arrange for companies to sponsor or help out with the workshops and training – one more reason to take part, as you will get the chance to get to know your potential employer when you graduate. Enterprise are involved in and sponsor many awards, including: the Cardiff Award organised by Cardiff University, University of Leicester’s Leicester Award, the Wolverhampton Enterprise and Employability Award and the University of Birmingham Personal Skills Award, but most universities will have some sort of employability programme you can take part in.
So what are some of the key skills you will gain from completing a university award? One that I always recognise is a strong work ethic. Most awards involve you gaining a certain amount of work experience hours, volunteering or strong involvement in extra-curricular activities as well as attending a set amount of workshops and completing a reflective report or presentation during the academic year. This is all on top of your lecture time, coursework, revision and exams. A good work ethic is needed in any career so participating in an employability award is a great chance to develop this.
You wouldn’t be able to take part in an award scheme without great time management. Being able to prioritise your workload, multitask, juggle project management and react to unexpected situations and still stay on track are key skills needed in any workplace.
Award students can also really develop their communication skills both verbal and writing as they often need to keep and submit written journals of their experience or write a report upon completion reflecting on what they have done and how they have developed. Some awardees will complete presentations, which will probably involve some public speaking, often a skill the majority of people fear the most but one that is essential in most careers.
I often attend networking events with students through awards various award schemes, a fantastic skill to learn as you progress in your careers. Being able to actively identify and build relationships is essential. I also encourage students to really think about their personal brand when networking on social media, another opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
As I mentioned at the start, most awards factor intensive skills sessions covering how to write applications and run interview workshops and mock interview/assessment days, all designed to prepare students and give them the best chance to succeed. Add these skills up along with the learning how to reflect and articulate them to prospective recruiters through the interview process and you are already giving yourself every chance to be successful. I would highly recommend to all students considering completing an award to make the investment, it will pay off!
Do you think that you have the great skills we want in our graduate management trainees? Then apply for a graduate job around the UK today.