As you’re coming to the end of your studies, you might be thinking about the type of job you’d like to get after you graduate.
While an employer may be looking for expertise that relate to a specific industry, most businesses will be on the lookout for candidates that have a set of transferable skills that are useful for any type of job. We’ve put a list of those skills together below to help you identify the graduate skills you already have and where you need to gain experience.
The top graduate skills employers want:
- Problem solving
- Organisation, planning or management
- Enthusiasm or willingness to learn
- Commercial awareness
- Relevant experience
First on the list of transferable graduate skills is communication. Being a good communicator means being able to convey your thoughts in a polite, clear and informative way.
Communication skills come in handy in a range of scenarios. If you work in a shop, you will need to be comfortable and confident in talking to customers and resolving their queries. If you work in an office, having strong verbal and written communications skills will help you when talking on the phone, taking part in meetings and writing emails.
There are a few tricks to being a good communicator. Taking five or 10 minutes to prepare before a meeting, being honest if you don’t know the answer to something, keeping things simple and being an active listener are all good ways to improve your communication skills.
2. Problem solving
Another skill that employers are looking for is problem solving. This is about how you approach a task and any issues that arise as part of that task.
Good problem solving is about identifying an issue, coming up with ways to solve that issue and implementing those solutions. At the end of a task, it’s good to evaluate the methods you used to solve a problem and how effective it was. Looking back and reflecting on what went well and what could have gone better will help you improve your approach to future tasks.
3. Organisation, planning or management
Employers in most sectors will expect graduates to have a basic level of organisation. Being able to manage your own time is key. You may be expected to plan things for others too, for example, organising meetings or giving a colleague or department a deadline for their work to be completed.
Luckily, you will have had plenty of time to work on your organisational skills while studying. Being a student requires you to manage your time between different modules to meet various deadlines. Perhaps you had a part-time job while at university or were a member of a society? Even organising your workload alongside your social life means that you already know how to plan your time effectively.
4. Enthusiasm or willingness to learn
While graduate employers will be on the lookout for certain practical skills like the ones listed above, another thing that a lot of them will be looking for is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm can be shown in a few ways:
- Demonstrate what you already know about the company during the application and interview process
- Show you understand a little bit about the sector or industry during the application and interview process
- Ask for feedback and be open to receiving constructive criticism on how you can improve your work
- Say yes to things, even if they’re not exactly what you thought you would be doing in the role
- Ask questions, get involved in conversations and even pitch your own ideas or solutions if you feel comfortable to do so
Although it may seem contrary to the point above about planning your time effectively, another graduate skill that companies want is flexibility. While it’s important to stay organised, you could end up working for a business where there is a need to adapt to the market. This is where a flexible approach to your work will come in handy.
It can be frustrating to get halfway through a project and be told that things have changed. In these situations, it’s important to remain calm (take a break and step away from your desk if possible), assess the situation, note down what is needed from you going forward, and take it step by step.
It’s okay to be disappointed if something you have worked hard on is no longer needed but try not to express how you feel in a negative way. A proactive and positive attitude will be remembered by those you work with, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you feel back on track.
The phrase ‘I work well in a team’ is one of those cliché terms that makes its way into a lot of people’s CVs and cover letters. Despite this, teamwork is still a sought-after graduate skill – so you should make sure to include it in your application.
The trick with teamwork is to show the employer how you work in a team, rather than tell them. Did you take part in group projects at university? Maybe you had a part-time job that required working with other colleagues? These are two practical examples that demonstrate you have previous experience of working with others to achieve a goal.
It’s good to say what type of role you played within the team – were you the creative thinker coming up with ideas, the organised one who made sure everyone was on-track, or something else? You could also mention all the small details that add up to good teamwork. For example, ensuring effective communication through a group chat, proof-reading and double checking each other’s work and meeting up regularly to discuss your progress.
7. Commercial awareness
Commercial awareness is all about demonstrating your understanding of the company and the industry that it’s part of.
We would recommend doing some research on the company and the sector, which you can mention in your cover letter and then discuss in more detail during your interview. Take some time to look at competitors too, so you have awareness of what similar businesses are doing.
You can also sign up to email newsletters and follow industry experts on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. Discover how else you can use social media to find a job.
8. Relevant experience
Relevant experience is an increasingly common skill that employers are seeking in graduates.
It’s important to remember that experience doesn’t have to mean paid. Companies often work with local universities to provide work experience for students, so it’s worth getting in contact with your tutors or university careers team to see if there are any opportunities for you.
Experience also doesn’t have to have been in a traditional workplace environment. If you see certain skills continually showing up on job descriptions, it’s worth looking into whether you can teach yourself these skills through online tutorials, or if there are courses you could enroll on.
Unitemps offers a range of internships, which provide candidates with valuable work experience to help them get their foot in the door of their preferred industry.
Last updated on 25 August 2022Share this article