A degree alone is not enough to gain entry into the competitive graduate labour market. We recommend that you use your time as student to develop a range of skills, knowledge, experience and attitudes that will help you in your future transition into work.
What are employability skills?
Often called ‘soft’ or ‘transferable’ skills, these are the abilities that employers want you to have experience of when you start work. They are skills that are relevant in all over the world, in all sectors and will help you move from one industry and job role to another.
Your ability to communicate is undoubtedly one the most important aspects of success in the UK. You have already achieved a good level in English but don’t stop there:
- Make friends with people from all nationalities; create diverse friendship groups so you are not tempted to speak in your native language all the time
- Create some rules for yourself. For example, only speak English when you are on campus
- Read relevant journal and newspapers in English. This will not only support your English but also your careers and sector industry knowledge
- Join in with any extra lessons and take advantage of any careers workshops as they will also support you to improve your English
- Socialise – come to the University of Sunderland in London social events
- Try to learn and understand colloquial and idiomatic phrases and expressions; we use them a lot so it can really improve your understanding of native speakers
- Watch TV and Films in English
- Work on improving you pronunciation
- Don’t worry about making mistakes, the only way to improve is to practise
Get to know yourself; find out what you are good at.
- Personal values
There isn’t a start or end to this process, it is a lifelong endeavour, but if you have not yet thought about these things yet, now is good time to start. To help consider what makes you buzz, click: Finding your Passion Qs
Play to your strengths
Although getting involved with various activities gives you the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills, one of the aims of this should be to find out your own unique combination of personal strengths.
There are many different ‘tools’ you can use to help you understand yourself better such as psychometric testing and Myer-Briggs personality types:
If you have a good sense of your own strengths, it can help determine the career paths that are right for you. In the UK 60 – 70% of job roles do not require a specific degree. Think widely about the skills and strengths you have and like using, there may be a varied range of jobs that you have never considered before.
We recommend you:
- Get involved with careers talks and company visits organised by the university
- Research careers that interest you, see links below
- Book a careers interview with the Careers and Employability Service
- Get involved with the University of Sunderland London Campus Bright Futures Society and the Business Society
Involvement in the activities listed below can help you develop skills and self awareness – and will look great on your CV.
Voluntary Work: You can find some excellent opportunities through voluntary work, often finding the chance to hold more responsibility than you would in junior roles in paid employment. Voluntary work can also be a really good starting point for those of you who have never had a job.
To find out more about finding voluntary work opportunities look at: https://livesonline.sunderland.ac.uk/careers/voluntary-work-2/ or come up to the fourth floor careers office.
University Societies: Getting involved is a great way of developing skills, meeting new people, practising your English language skills, building confidence and having fun. Sometimes you can include them on your CV, particularly if you have taken an organisational/committee role.
Student Representative: This is a chance to represent the student body by becoming a point of contact for communication between staff and students. Through liaising with academic staff, senior management and support staff, this is an opportunity that will help you develop skills in leadership, communication and influencing and negotiation.
Student Ambassador: As a student ambassador you will get paid job roles on an ad-hoc basis on various positions supporting the university. This is a great opportunity to earn money, gain work experience in a variety of roles and be part of the university.
Part-time jobs: Whilst these are essential for survival for most students, don’t neglect the fact that they can provide you with some valuable employability skills. A few tips for part-time work:
- Find work in a job role and company that you would feel proud to have on your CV
- Whilst at work, be aware of the skills you are learning and take any opportunities that will enable you to develop yourself
- Treat difficult situations as an opportunity to develop new skills
- Try to move up within your job role. Can you move into a shift supervisor, duty manager, team leader role; what opportunities are there to gain more responsibility?
- Improve your commercial awareness by learning about the organisational structure, the product, it’s trade and place in the market
When you get involved with activities such as these, it is essential that you are aware of the skills you are learning as well as thinking about the things that you really enjoy and find that you are good at. Being able to articulate yourself is a vital skill when looking for work; it supports you with applications, job interview and networking.
- Keep a notebook and record the skills you are using: what situations have you encountered that have required you to use certain skills?
- Look out for opportunities that give you the chance to further you skills and experience
Internships: An internship is an opportunity to gain professional work experience for a fixed period of time. This can be anything from 6 weeks to 12 months but, for international students, it would have to fit into a time period that your visa allows. For example, you will normally have a period of four months between your course finishing and you visa expiring; this is a time period that you could be doing an internship.
Finding an internship can take a lot of work. Don’t leave it until you finish your course, start looking well before.
For further information about internships, please ensure you read your university emails, ‘Like’ the London Campus Facebook page and attend workshops run by the careers service.