Your employability skills

"Employability skills" is a term you will hear and see often at university. These are the skills that many employers look for when recruiting and a student exhibiting many of these qualities will have an advantage over those who do not. But what do these skills actually mean? We've put together a list of the most looked-for traits below:

Self-Management

Self-management

This skill shows a readiness to accept responsibility to improve one's own performance and learning, as well as the will to be proactive and seek out opportunities.

The three main skills in this area are:

  • The ability to plan and manage time
  • The ability to work using your initiative and without supervision
  • Having the determination to succeed.

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

If you undertake a few activities in addition to your academic studies, organising your time and closely managing commitments is vital.

Communication

Communication

Good communication is much more than just being understood. It allows you to keep a conversation going, present your findings in a range of different ways and tailor your approach to the audience. There are three main areas:

  • Written communication: Structuring your ideas/results in a clear and logical manner with correct spelling and grammar
  • Verbal communication: Presenting information verbally and tailoring your presentation style to the audience. Active listening is also important as communication is a two-way process
  • Non-verbal communication: Non-verbal messages allow people to reinforce points with gestures, facial expressions and body language

The main skills in this area are:

  • Ability to present information clearly and appropriately
  • Ability to tailor messages to audience and purpose
  • Ability to actively listen to and question others

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

 

Teamwork

Teamwork

Working in a team involves cooperation and negotiation with others while working towards a common aim. Being flexible is useful in a team when deciding team roles, and respecting other opinions and ideas is of vital importance.

The main skills involved in team work are:

  • Ability to cooperate with others on a shared task
  • Ability to lead and motivate others
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary team.

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

Problem Solving

Problem solving

Problem solving involves analysing facts and situations and coming up with appropriate solutions. This applies to all walks of life and not just to mathematical equations.

The main skills in this area are:

  • Identifying that a problem exists and defining it
  • Capacity for applying theory to practice
  • Ability to retrieve, analyse and evaluate information from different sources

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

  • Joining the York University Maths Society for problem solving and numeracy skills
  • Reading chapter 6 of Brilliant Workplace Skills for Students & Graduates from Careers
  • Taking on your own challenge to help your studies eg. self-learning a computer programming language, applying technology in a College project
  • Helping to run a student society or volunteering project

Project Management

Project management

The ability to plan, organise and support a project through its various development stages is a useful skill in every sector of work. It draws together several other skills such as teamwork and communication skills. Adapting the project due to budget constraints or as other unexpected situations occur also shows an aptitude for problem solving.

The main skills in this area are:

  • Coordinating work, from the planning stages to the final result and beyond
  • Altering the project to adapt to a change in circumstances
  • Good commincation skills to keep relevant parties up-to-date with progress

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation

Being creative and innovative is often linked to being entrepreneurial. However, it is much more than just spotting opportunities and taking risks. It is also about considering new ways of doing things and using all of the information available to you to generate good ideas.

The main skills in this area are:

  • Ability to generate ideas and think laterally
  • Ability to identify and take opportunities
  • Capacity to observe and evaluate trends and create appropriate opportunities

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

Commercial Awareness

Commercial awareness

This skill shows a basic understanding of the key drivers behind a successful business or organisation. This includes an awareness of the importance of customer satisfaction and competing with rival companies.

The main skills in this area are:

  • Ability to demonstrate an insight into how organisations operate
  • Ability to recognise external context and pressures on an organisation
  • Capacity to understand the practical implications of turning an idea into a commercial reality

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

Social, Cultural and Global Awareness

Social, cultural and global awareness

An understanding that, in a global market, business practice and communication are no longer constrained by physical borders. The ability to relate with people from a range of different backgrounds is important in the commercial world, but also on a personal level with neighbours or team members.

The main skills in this area are:

  • Ability to work in an international context
  • Appreciation of diversity and ethical issues
  • Understanding of cultures and customs in other countries

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

 

Application of Numeracy

Application of numeracy

Being able to manage simple mathematical calculations and the ability to budget are not only key requirements for many employers, they are valuable life skills.

The main skills in this area are:

  • Ability to carry out arithmetic operations and understand data
  • Ability to create, read and interpret graphs/tables
  • Ability to manage a budget.

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

Application of IT

Application of IT

Basic IT skills such as word processing, spreadsheets and file management are key in most work environments. Knowledge of website design or programming languages are also desireable in some sectors.

The main skills in this area are:

  • Ability to identify the appropriate IT package for a given task
  • Basic word-processing and database skills
  • Ability to use the internet and email effectively.

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

  • Undertaking IT Services' training on a variety of software
  • Using/practising computer programs (eg Word, Excel, Publisher, etc)
  • Checking out Codecademy at York and the IT Academy at Heslington East for more advanced program use
  • Posting to social media, blog and forum sites
  • Investigating other training and practice opportunities (eg external course providers, including online resources and tutorials).

Resilience

Resilience

Being resilient means having a positive approach, being good at dealing with setbacks and bouncing back if things go wrong.  It includes being flexible and willing to rethink and adjust plans accordingly to ensure success.

The main skills involved in being resilient are:

  • Ability to overcome potential setbacks
  • Willingness to seek out challenge
  • Ability to manage risks

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

  • Taking on a challenging volunteering role in the community e.g.a York Students in Communities project
  • Getting involved with a student society or college committee and working to enhance the lives of fellow students
  • Joining and becoming a long-term member of a university club which focuses on something completely new to you.

Contributing to the university community

Contributing to the University community

Integrating into the University community involves a positive, flexible, ‘can do’ approach.  Being a valid member of your College and degree course takes time, thought and uses many of the skills on this page!

The main skills involved in contributing to the University community are:

  • Ability to live harmoniously with others
  • Having the desire to get involved and make life better for other students
  • Ability to use initiative to get things done

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

  • Getting involved with a student society or committee and working to enhance the lives of fellow students
  • Becoming a course rep for YUSU to develop your communication skills with academics and fellow students
  • Joining a university sports club and standing for an elective role

Employer Engagement

Employer Engagement

Setting up, developing and maintaining links with employers during your time at university shows a willingness to look outside the immediate, academic context.  It will help you to stand out from the crowd when it comes to looking for a graduate role.

The main skills involved in engaging with employers are:

  • Willingness to talk to employers at every opportunity
  • Seeking out opportunities to try different roles e.g. through work experience, part time jobs or projects within Careers
  • Ability to develop and maintain links with employers throughout time at university

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

Planning

Planning / time management

This skill is about being able to think ahead and understand what is required to achieve a specific goal, such as completing an assignment on time or getting the graduate role you want.  Planning requires good organisation and flexibility.

The main skills involved in planning are:

  • Being able to estimate how long tasks will take to complete
  • Developing timetables with clear milestones and deadlines
  • Being able to monitor and adjust timescales as necessary

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

World of work awareness

World of work awareness

Developing world of work awareness is about having practical experience of a working context outside of academic study.  It could be via a work placement or part time job where you develop your knowledge of the workplace and how it operates.

The main skills involved in developing world of work awareness are:

  • Ability to take on a range of workplace roles
  • Appreciation of the variety of working environments and contexts
  • Ability to use knowledge gained to inform future work-related choices

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

Skills courses

There are lots more skills courses than the ones suggested here - some run every term, others only once a year. Check the courses page for more information.

Also, to help develop your knowledge of a subject, search for relevant MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). These (often free) educational courses could give you useful insight and help develop your understanding of a subject. See our blog post about MOOCs for further information.

Which of these skills do you have?

You have probably demonstrated these skills more than you think. Explore our award-winning Employability Tutorial and see what you can discover about your skills.

For more ideas and suggestions to help you choose activities and develop your skills while you are at York, see the Careers Timeline.

...and finally

As well as skills, employers are increasingly considering a graduate's attitude.

The qualities employers may want include:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Commitment
  • Resourcefulness
  • Perseverance
  • Endurance
  • Open-mindedness.

Can you demonstrate any of these as well?

talking (3 people)

Did you know?

In a survey of the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, the most wanted trait in graduates was Communication Skills, closely followed by Teamwork and Collaboration.

Tell me more

To find out more about activities which can help develop your skills, see:

Prefer Books?

Available from Careers for reference or the library to borrow: