Landing your first job; don’t neglect your employability skills

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So, you begin another year, or perhaps your first. It will be a year of intellectual challenge and discussion, involve long hours spent reading, crafting assignments and meeting the challenge of the exams. The objective? Well, aside from developing your own perspective and understanding of how  firms, markets and societies function and change, it is likely that you are aiming for a good degree. However, you will need more if you are to translate your academic achievement into a job offer for a graduate level post in the firm or sector of your choice.

Though some exaggerate the difficulty for new graduates securing their first graduate level post (the vast majority of graduates do find suitable employment), it is important to acknowledge that there is severe competition for desirable graduate jobs. Increasing numbers of graduates and European labour market liberalization has increased the number of candidates per vacancy. The outcome is that employers look for a good degree as a qualifying standard. Necessary to be considered, but not sufficient to get you the offer by itself. Employers aren’t simply looking for numerate, articulate and well presented candidates, that is a given, especially for graduates from top universities such as UEA. Employers are also on the look-out for graduate attributes that they can see will make a positive contribution to their workforce. It is an exercise in imagination; they are thinking what will he/she be like with other employees? How resilient will they be to setbacks? Will they use problem solving skills when they face obstacles. Can they communicate up and down the organisation? Can they manage their own time and work in cross- functional and cross- cultural teams. If you work in finance can you work with a marketing representative?

How can you demonstrate you posses these skills?  Internships are an obvious solution – show what you can do by doing it. As well as summer internships look out for something called the Graduate Trainee Management Scheme, aimed at 3rd year graduates. GTMS Norah slides
This is a chance to compete for 9-month contracts in graduate level posts with employers in Norwich and London. In addition to the obvious, throughout your degree you have been and will be exposed to simulations and situations designed to equip you with, or offer you the opportunity to develop, your employability. Some are highly visible employability themed activities such as those offered by the Careers and Employability services; CV design, networking training, interview skills etc. These are on offer throughout the year. One such highly visible opportunity is during Employability Week (4th to the 8th of November) – a special NBS and Careers and Employability event made up of activities and events designed to improve your employability. Such as workshops on the use of social media, mock assessment centres, enterprise planning, employer fairs, networking and talks. Others opportunities to develop and be able to talk about the competences employers are looking for are embedded in the curriculum through team based and problem based assessments and real world case studies. In addition there are extra curricula activities which develop these valued employability skills and demonstrate them to someone reading your CV or resume. These should not be undervalued. Sport, volunteering and hobbies are rich sources of such opportunity for developing such skills and employers look for evidence of initiative, effort and achievement in them. Soon, an initiative called HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Record) will be launched at UEA. This will provide a process to capture these experiences and competencies and a platform to present them to interested employers.

Though the university and the business school have designed support activities and resources, that old saying about ‘getting a job, is a job itself’ applies. Developing your employability is a self-directed task. You have an array of resources at your disposal, to fully make use of them you need to discover them. Visit employer and our employability web pages, contact your school’s Careers and Employability advisor, discuss your preparation for outside university with your academic advisor and take advantage of Employability week. Finally, a message from those who have gone before you. We stay in contact with graduates and one of the key things they bring up when discussing their university years is the important role that making use of the school and university’s employability resources played in getting a good job.

So, enjoy the year to come. Face the intellectual challenge. But don’t forget to develop your employability.

Posted by: Jonathan Gander and Graham Manville

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