The graduate skills gap - and how to beat it

The graduate skills gap – and how to beat it

Some students assume that when they finish university, the degree will be enough to land them a nice £30,000 a year job straight away. However, whilst this is possible, employers are looking for more than just a degree. Experience is a necessity, as is a number of different skills. The very basics of starting a job can be lost on students who have spent the last three years not actually doing that much.

Transferable skills

When we first start university, a lot of degrees emphasise transferable skills. Whilst this is very good, not all students are aware of the exact skills they are being given alongside a degree.

The graduate skills gap - and how to beat it

This is a common problem and some students are very aware of it. By partaking in different events, even just temporarily to try out, improves your CV and your mental capacity for working. Perhaps you have been the secretary of a club or a volunteer night Samaritan. All of these are good roles that provide new skills. However, what students will need to work out in their third year is how transferable these skills are.

Taking part in clubs and societies is usually a good place to start. You develop skills without even realising it. Being surrounded by people who perhaps are more knowledgeable than you and some whom may not be can enable a clearer understanding of where you are emotionally.

The “skills gap”

There has been emphasis amongst employers that there is a “skills gap” for students. This is not necessarily true; students just don’t realise they have the necessary skills that employers are after. The “experience gap” is real but unfortunately, there is very little to be done about this other than build up experience with time.

The graduate skills gap - and how to beat it

The “skills gap” can be managed and addressed with the right advice. I maintain the idea that all students should go see the Careers time at least once a semester at university. They can help you stay up to date with your CV and even broaden your experiences out. This ensures that any skills you do learn don’t disappear throughout the year.

Mismatch job

This in turn can ensure you are able to find a job you enjoy. Too many students now are mismatched to a graduate job. Either they did not receive the correct advice, or they went for something because it is relevant to their degree but not something they will necessarily enjoy. You can love studying a topic but then having to do it every day can sometimes be a bit daunting. This doesn’t mean you have chosen the wrong degree, just that it’s not something you can always do.

The graduate skills gap - and how to beat it

However, students can also help themselves out quite a bit by doing very simple actions. Staying up to date with current affairs helps improve business acumen. This is necessary no matter what field you go into. Staying aware of how your actions may look in the news, and as such reflect on the company you work for, is a skill. However, most students will not immediately think of it but try comparing it to your social media. Everyone wants a good social media, but all the messy stuff is hidden away. Companies prefer it if you are able to recognise this.

Another area that students can focus on is taking on constructive criticism. To a certain point, education has cushioned us to not take negative comments too harshly. But if you are planning on working on Wall Street after you’ve graduated you may want to toughen up a bit. This is another skill called emotional intelligence. By taking part in different clubs and societies, this particular skill can be improved clearly. Accepting feedback when you’ve made a mistake is all part of developing transferable skills.

The graduate skills gap - and how to beat it

Using English language

Using English language correctly has been identified by employers as an area in which graduates fall down. The transition from academic writing to employment writing can be a big change and as such some graduates may struggle. From the very beginning with a job application, grammar and spelling need to be perfect. This can be highlighted even more with the increase in email usage amongst employers. Using the correct etiquette could get you a job.

Skills like the ones talked about here don’t just help you grow as a person. They give you a more realistic view to walk into the job market with. If you are able to argue that the skills you have acquired since being at university have made you a more employable person then that will enable you to command a higher salary. Accept what your personal capability is. Because if you’ve spent three years at university simply studying, then your skills to an employer may not be as relevant as you might think.

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The graduate skills gap - and how to beat it

Helen Rodgers

Lifestyle / Employment Writer. Helen studies Ancient History at the University of Nottingham and writes a weekly article on balancing student and working life.