The Association of Graduate Recruiters (the AGR), conducted a survey which outlined the employability skills seen as most important by recruiters and the specific skills where demand is not being met. The ability to manage your own development and career received a significantly high response in the AGR Survey.
- Carl Gilleard, Former AGR Chief Executive attributes this to “a reflection of the pace of change in the world of work and the fact that jobs for life don’t really exist anymore.”
Being able to manage yourself and your own performance is an attribute that employers look for as employees who are well organised, understand their role and are always looking to increase their skills and knowledge through research, training or other means are likely to have a positive effect on their organisation.
A willingness to continually develop your skills can help you to:
- achieve your goals - those who plan ahead and improve their skills tend to move up the career ladder
- keep pace with change - that way you don't get left behind when new technology, or new ways of working, are introduced
- keep you in the job market - knowing what your next move should be, means you are in a position to recognise relevant opportunities and are proactive in managing your career
- build a portfolio of evidence of your skills and professional development which is useful when applying for jobs, or for promotion
- help you identify weaknesses (just as important as identifying strengths!) so you can improve and develop.
Importantly, it will also prove to a recruiter that you are professional in your approach to your career.
What do recruiters want?
This type of employability skill might also be known as Ongoing Development or Continuous Professional Development but there are a number of ways that a recruiter may ask for it:
- “We’re looking for people with real intellectual ability, who will keep up to date with the latest industry trends...”
- “We recruit graduates who show high management potential, who are keen to develop themselves as well as others...”
- “You will embrace change as an integral part of your success”
- “Have the passion and self-motivation to succeed...”
- “Graduates who can respond with pace and energy to new challenges and opportunities...”
- “Staff who seek opportunities and learn fast...”
- “A passion for learning and an appetite for knowledge...”
These quotations have been taken from recent advertisements for a variety of graduate jobs. They don’t use the terms ‘ongoing development’ or ‘continuous professional development’ but all these recruiters are asking for the same skill. Organisations, whether public or private sector, want staff who:
- Want to absorb new thinking and ideas
- Want to be the best in their field or role, and will put in time and effort to achieve this
- Seek to continually improve their knowledge, skills and performance by getting involved in a range of learning opportunities
- Reflect and learn from their work and from their professional and personal experiences
- Are eager to take on new tasks and to experience different situations
- Keep their specialist or technical knowledge up to date and are aware of professional developments in their area of expertise
- Learn fast and make effective use of their learning
- Are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and have a plan for development
Every organisation wants to get the best out of their staff and the willingness to undergo training and to develop skills is a key component in every job. The University of Bradford for example, requires all its staff to be “committed to the development of self and others” or “committed to continuing personal and professional development” and you are likely to find phrases like this on most job specifications.
Managing your own development and career
A positive attitude towards your ongoing development is a key capability that employers value highly. The fact that you have come to University and studied at a high level proves that you have intellectual capabilities and an interest in developing yourself professionally.
Part of your development is recognising your own strengths and weaknesses and being prepared to do something about them. Knowing yourself, and understanding your own behaviour in situations, is an important indicator in assessing how open you are to new challenges and how committed you are to personal and professional development.
You can start now to record your achievements, successes and development to assist you in applications and demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment to learning and developing.
You can keep a log of this in any way you like (such as a Word document or spreadsheet), but there are a a couple of resources available to you as a University of Bradford student that can help:
Build My Career
Select the My Career tab on your home page and you will see a record of your progress as you work through the assessments.
You can also create and manage tasks in the Career Planner section.
The Higher Education Achievement Report
The Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) is a report of all your achievements that you build up and add to during your time at Bradford. It features your academic achievements and awards as well as extra-curricular activities. See the list of University-accredited activities and think about whether you could get involved in any to develop your skills further.
You can access your report throughout your degree and keep track of your development, and when you finish your studies you can use your HEAR to demonstrate your achievements to recruiters and postgraduate admissions tutors.
How do you prove to a recruiter that you have this skill?
It might be that, for example, you recognised that you needed help with study skills and attended courses or workshops; that you identified that you needed to improve your IT skills so did an evening or online course; that you found maths or numeracy difficult so you took advantage of our Academic Skills courses.
These are just examples drawn from your study. There will be more that you can draw on from your personal or leisure interests. You might have attended evening classes to learn a language or craft, or coaching sessions to improve your sporting abilities, or become expert in a leisure activity, hobby, etc. Most work experience has also involved some training and examples can be drawn from this too, for example time management or customer service training, or health and safety awareness, first aid, etc.
Think about a time when you have realised you needed or wanted to improve something and then took steps to do it. Then use the STAR technique to write your evidence:
|S||Define the Situation|
|T||Identify the Task|
|A||Describe your Action|
|R||Explain the Result|
This technique is useful at all stages of the selection process so it is worthwhile getting to grips with it. Here's an example:
Define the SITUATION
I started University after my three children reached school age and I felt I had the time and motivation to pursue my career. I had always been interested in Psychology and decided to do this degree course, with the intention of working within education guidance.
Identify the TASK
In my first year, I had no problem with understanding and contributing in class, but it took me a long time to research and write my essays and I felt pressured when faced with deadlines. It was clear that my IT skills were not up to date or developed enough.
Describe the ACTION you took or initiated
I asked my tutor for help and he recommended I contact the Academic Skills Advice and the IT Support Centre, both within the University. I attended workshops and seminars on study skills, including electronic searching and essay writing, and attended IT workshops on using Microsoft Office. These sessions were additional to my academic work and some of them were run at weekends and in the evenings.
Highlight the RESULT you achieved
Although finding the time to do these sessions was difficult with my family commitments, I am so glad I took the initiative. My IT skills are now excellent and I am confident with using Word, Excel and Outlook. The sessions on electronic searching of journals and databases opened up new channels of information for me and they have contributed significantly to my academic success so far.
You could summarise the above for use in your CV like this:
- Participated in University workshops and seminars to update IT skills and develop effective research techniques.
- I have a strong interest in developing my skills and have taken advantage of a range of additional seminars and workshops to improve my use of Microsoft Office and develop effective study techniques
Adapting Your Examples
The example above, for instance, could easily be altered to prove adaptability and flexibility or problem solving and decision making. It is worthwhile spending time writing statements like this about all your experiences and then adapting them to match each recruiter's specific requirements.
- Guidance appointments with Career Consultants can help you with your decision-making and your strategy for achieving your plans.
- We run regular workshops on employability skills, including advice on planning your career.
- The Prospects Career Planner helps to match your skills and personality to a range of job profiles.
- Jobs.ac.uk: What is Continuing Professional Development (CPD)?
- Keeping your professional development continuous from Guardian Careers.
- Keep your career moving with continuous professional development via the Independent.