Develop your skills
When advertising vacancies, employers usually present their requirements in terms of experience, knowledge and skills. Although the skills needed will vary depending on the type of vacancy on offer, the skills most commonly sought by employers include:
- Communication: for example, the ability to communicate effectively with colleagues and clients, present information in a group setting and write concisely and clearly.
- Team work and leadership: the ability to work co-operatively with others is essential in most work settings, and in some graduate roles the ability to support and motivate others will be important.
- Planning, organisation and time management: These skills relate to the ability to plan tasks or activities and carry them out effectively. This might include setting goals and priorities, being able to work under pressure and manage your time to meet deadlines.
- Problem solving: This involves being able to identify the nature of a problem, think through a logical response and then generate, evaluate and implement solutions.
- Research and analysis: includes seeking out relevant information or data, evaluating and interpreting it and reaching a rational conclusion or recommendation.
- IT skills and digital literacy: As well as familiarity with commonly used packages or specialist software related to your field this skill set would include competence in the use of social media. It also relates to gathering, analysing and arranging information in a logical way.
When looking for work, it is essential to identify the skills you have to offer and then illustrate through your application that you meet the needs of the employer. A more comprehensive description of graduate work skills and how they might be assessed through the recruitment and selection process can be found on the Graduate Work Skills document.
Your Careers Portal material “Analyse your Skills” (part of the Self Development module) provides more information on the key skills expected of applicants and how to develop these. In addition, the University of Reading has produced a useful computer based tool, Skills Transformer which provides a structure to help recognise, write about and discuss skills. It was designed with science and technology students in mind, although can be used by students of any discipline.
You will continually develop skills through your studies but there are also many opportunities to practice and develop skills outside the curriculum – below are some options to consider:
Work Experience, Placements and Volunteering
Any type of experience in the work place, whether paid or unpaid, will allow you to gain an insight into the sector and allow you to develop commercial awareness as well as an understanding of how to meet customer needs and manage resources efficiently. Dealing with customers will allow you to develop communication and problem solving skills, as well the ability to manage situations where events are not going according to plan. You may be expected to manage your workload to meet deadlines and for some there may also be opportunities to take responsibility for supervising others or for leading on specific tasks or projects.
Student Ambassadors help at University open days and Higher Education Fairs, visit local schools and colleges to talk about their university experience and actively assist students through acting as mentors. These activities offer an excellent opportunity to develop communication, influencing and leadership skills, in that you would be involved in presenting information, explaining ideas and supporting and motivating students. Examples of problem solving in this context might include identifying an effective way to explain a complex idea to a pupil, whilst organisational skills could be enhanced through planning a presentation, or managing time to ensure that you arrive promptly in the correct location. Recruitment usually takes place in September, see the student ambassador pages for more details.
Student Academic Representatives (or StARS)
StARS are students elected by their peers to represent their views and articulate concerns. Each course will have its own StAR who meets with academic staff to raise issues, contribute ideas and give students a voice in the decision-making process. In relation to skills development the role therefore provides experience of collecting information, analysing current issues, presenting views in an organised way within a formal context, influencing the decision making process and helping to generate solutions to problems identified.
London Met PASS Scheme
This scheme provides opportunities for 2nd and 3rd year students to act as “success coaches”, providing guidance to first years that can help them to develop a better understanding of course content and what is required in assessments, good academic skills and strategies for becoming successful students. They work with first year students in small groups and also provide one-to-one advice. This role provides an excellent opportunity to develop confident communication skills, the ability to plan a schedule of meetings, show flexibility in responding to individual needs and a proactive approach to problem solving. See the PASS scheme pages for details on how and when to apply
Skills Development: Workshops
These are offered by the Volunteering team within Careers and Employability. The list of skills covered is wide ranging but typically includes “effective communication”, “dealing with conflict”, “assertiveness”, “meeting skills”, “team development”, “leadership “managing your time”, “project management “and “dealing with conflict”. Details of workshops on offer can be found on the Careers and Employability Eventbrite page.
The Student Union
The Student Union supports clubs and societies as well as a magazine and radio station. It therefore offers a wealth of opportunities to work alongside others, to get involved in student life and to contribute towards the wider university community. Involvement in running a student society might help to develop commercial awareness (through managing a budget for example), or planning and team working skills when organising a series of events.
Londonmet Student Enterprise
Londonmet Student Enterprise offers a range of support and advice for those interested in starting their own business. Activities include workshops, events and business competitions. There are opportunities to discuss your ideas with an experienced business adviser and access funding advice as well as office space (through the Launchpad programme).
Participation provides valuable opportunities for developing commercial awareness. In addition, researching a business idea invariably involves collecting and analysing data and presenting this in a logical manner with the aim of influencing potential investors and customers. This process could also involve problem solving as your ideas may well need to evolve in the light of information gathered.
The Careers Mentoring Programme
This provides a great opportunity for students to gain an insight into the world of work and to develop awareness of effective communication within a professional context. Involvement in the careers mentoring programme can also develop organisational skills as you must arrange a series of contacts with your mentor and plan what you hope to achieve during each. Applications usually open in October/November each year.
The Study Hub
The Study Hub provides a wide range of resources to help you become a confident learner. Areas such as critical thinking and delivering effective presentations are included as well as note-taking, revision and exam techniques, group work and IT essentials.
Toastmasters is external to the university and is a non-profit educational organisation which teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. There are a number of clubs in the London area.
The Mindtools website provides an online resource for developing a wide range of work related skills including communication, leadership, problem solving and time management.