Accessibility statement

Your employability skills and qualities

"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.

The series of Skills for Success webinars from SRS Recruitment and Employability Experts covers many of these skills and is available on YouTube.

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:

  • Engaging fully with problem solving in your degree course, for example group projects, dissertation research, practical challenges, problem based learning in some disciplines 
  • Identifying and working to overcome obstacles in your personal, academic or work life; this includes seeking help and advice
  • Joining the York University Maths Society for problem solving and numeracy skills
  • 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

Resilience

Resilience

Being resilient means having a positive approach, being good at dealing with setbacks, learning from problems 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:

  • Recognising stress factors and developing strategies to help you when you are faced with change or pressure
  • Exploring the wellbeing workshops offered by Student Support - many of these can contribute towards developing a resilient approach to life
  • Being aware of how to look after yourself, especially during times of stress - tips for wellbeing
  • Exploring the Open University's free course, Developing career resilience, which covers both personal and career resilience
  • Taking on a challenging volunteering role in the community
  • 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.

Learning agility

Learning agility

If you're studying at York, we hope you enjoy learning! Learning agility includes

  • curiosity and openness
  • the ability to learn from experiences (both good and bad)
  • flexibility and adaptability to apply learning to new situations
  • reflection and a growth mindset.

Develop this skill at York

  • Consider study or work abroad to experience learning in a different environment or culture
  • Get involved in the York Strengths programme - you may find you're an agile learner!
  • Look at the skills guide to help with reflection
  • Try something new, take on a new challenge, and look for new solutions to problems you might face, and be prepared to apply what you learn to future situations.

Self-Awareness and Self-Management

Self-awareness

How well you know and understand yourself, and how other people perceive you, is very important in helping you to identify the right job and develop in your career.

Self-management

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

This includes

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

Develop these skills at York

You can become more self-aware and improve your self-management by

  • Getting involved in the York Strengths programme to identify your personal strengths
  • Using the Self-awareness section on our Ideas page
  • Checking out the Study skills pages to help you manage your academic work
  • Applying for part-time work through Handshake, or getting involved in student societies or volunteering will require you to manage studies and other commitments.

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

Demonstrating commercial awareness in an interview:

  • Prepare answers for questions about why you want to work for the company and in that particular sector
  • Show your understanding of the company, its competitors, clients and the sector's current climate and challenges

Develop this skill at York

  • Explore our Enterprise programme to develop your business or social enterprise idea
  • Get involved in Volunteering
  • Join the York Entrepreneurs Society
  • Get an internship to gain an insight into how an organisation operates
  • Apply for insight days and attend employer sessions at university
  • Keep up with the latest issues in the world of business by reading the business press or trade journals, watching the news, listening to business programmes or podcasts, checking the news section and annual reviews on company websites (especially companies you are applying to).

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence

Some of the other skills on this page feature in emotional intelligence, which includes:

  • self-awareness - recognising how you feel and why
  • empathy - understanding others' feelings and emotions as well as your own, and being able to adjust your behaviour in response
  • communication - being able to communicate effectively and appropriately
  • self-motivation and confidence

Read TargetJobs article on Emotional intelligence: a secret ingredient for career success

Develop this skill at York

You can gain and develop this skill by:

  • Recognising your own emotions and stress factors and developing strategies to help you when you are faced with change or pressure
  • Exploring the wellbeing workshops offered by Student Support to help with managing your feelings
  • Being aware of how to look after yourself, especially during times of stress - tips for wellbeing
  • Getting involved with people from different backgrounds and with different viewpoints to your own - on your course, by joining societies, or by working or volunteering in the local community
  • Read the Management Centre article on Emotional intelligence at work, and try some of their suggestions.

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:

  • Using the Writing Centre to help you improve your written skills
  • Explore taking one of their credit bearing modules to enhance your communication skills
  • Attending our events to learn the art of approaching and communicating with employers in a supportive setting
  • Taking part in a YSIS placement, where you will be communicating with different age ranges (school children and teachers) 
  • Becoming an academic rep for YUSU to develop your communication skills with academics and fellow students
  • Becoming a Student Ambassador.

 

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:

  • Being a member of a sports team to appreciate team dynamics
  • Participating fully in any group work elements for your academic course
  • Involvement with a student society or committee and working together to achieve your aims
  • Getting involved in a volunteering project
  • Becoming a Student Ambassador.

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:

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:

  • Having a look at the How to Pass Numeracy Tests books in Careers and Placements or in the University Library
  • Trying the Assessment Day practice tests online
  • Consulting the Maths Skills Centre about any maths and statistics content in your course, or for help with numerical tests used in employer recruitment processes
  • Joining the York University Maths Society
  • Applying for part time work where you have to handle money (eg shops and bars).
  • Check out MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that may help improve your numeracy skills

Planning and time management

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:

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 desirable in some sectors. Being able to create accessible digital materials can give you an advantage with meeting business needs.

The main skills in this area are:

  • Confidence in the use of information technologies
  • Ability to identify the appropriate IT package or tool for a given task
  • 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:

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:

  • Playing a full part in the life of your college
  • 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 eg at presentations, skills sessions - check our events page to see who is on campus or at online events
  • Seeking out opportunities to try different roles e.g. through work experience, part-time jobs or projects within Careers and Placements
  • 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:

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:

...and finally

As well as skills, employers are increasingly considering a graduate's strengths and attributes.

The York Strengths Programme can help you identify and explore your personal strengths and think about how they could impact your studies and future career.