You are here

Graduate skills: 7 ways to bolster them post-university

Published 18th April 2017 by Melissa Farrington
Graduate skills in the job market

The graduate market is a tough nut to crack - there’s lots of competition. So anything you can do to give your chances a boost is always going to be worth doing. Aside from polishing your CV and preparing for interviews well, it’s about honing your existing skills and developing sought-after skills that will boost your chances of being nabbed by the organisations you want to work for.

Ready to get to work?

Graduate skills: 7 ways you can bolster them to bag a good job:

Read trade publications

Most industries have trade publications, such as The Grocer for food and drink, Retail Week for the retail industry, The Lawyer for legal and Property Week for commercial and residential property markets.

Reading these magazines helps you develop an understanding of the short-term and long-term trends in the industry, which develops your planning, decision-making, critical thinking and commercial awareness.

Throw yourself into a MOOC

There’s a MOOC for every specific skill you want to develop, such as leadership skills (Shape your life with leadership, Inclusive Leadership Training), conflict resolution (Turn Conflict into Collaboration) and financial management (Diagnosing the financial health of a business).

Or go more ‘meta’ and take a MOOC that will improve your skills in a number of areas by changing or evolving your mindset, such as Learning How To Learn or Developing An Entrepreneurial Mindset.

There’s a great list of MOOCs online so you can choose what’s right for you.

Delve into open-access journals

Many journals require expensive subscriptions but not all. Journals are fantastic because they are filled with researched and reviewed content that you can use to inform your mindset and attitude towards life, as well as contextualise your own learnings against what researchers have found.

Ephemera is a journal, founded in 2001, that focuses on theory and politics in organisations, so is useful for anyone entering or trying to make more sense of organisational life. Other examples include Business Management Dynamics and the Journal of Organisation Design.

Here’s a list of open-access journals in the business management space.

Work on your soft skills

New knowledge is great but we mustn’t forget it’s how we interact with the world and our relationships with people that often define how we succeed. Soft skills are skills that enhance our ability to interact with other people and achieve mutually-beneficial outcomes.

Some key soft skills include:

  • Empathy: helps you to influence and build bridges with others by truly putting themselves in your shoes. How can you develop empathy? There are some great tips here.
  • Resilience: resilience helps us treat every interpersonal situation on its own merits without letting our own feelings or mood affect how we treat others. Mindfulness is a great way to start training the brain in resilience.
  • Listening: active listening is a crucial skill for really understanding someone’s point of view and making sure you give them what they need to feel good about the interaction. It’s fundamental for line managers. We’ve outlined three tips you can use to enhance your active listening skills.

Humble yourself

Humility is a skill, like any other. When you forget that what you know is just a grain of sand in a colossal desert, you take the path to hubris, arrogance and potential disruption from competitors in your industry.

There’s a great Buddhist phrase - “beginner’s mind” - which acts as a guiding principle for how you should approach every situation. Adopting this principle helps stop old biases or out-of-date knowledge from taking precedence over new learning. Never forget where you started from and remember that however old you are, however much you’ve been through, you can learn something new every day if you open your mind to it.

On a practical level, as organisations move into a world where disruption and change happen daily, this mindset is a valuable asset for you to have.

Read some biographies

Success is a journey, rather than an endpoint. Biographies are a great way to understand honestly the very different paths people take to success, and the behavioural change that gave them the skills, confidence or knowledge to step up and take their success to the next level.

In biographies, people overcome challenges, and this is a really important skill in business: how do you cope with fast-paced, unexpected change? Understanding how others have approached problems can help you develop your own problem-solving skills, which are universally valued in organisational life.

Experiment with things that require practice

Experiential learning (learning by doing) has become undervalued in a world of instant answers via Google and the rise of knowledge as a commodity. But learning by doing is a great confidence booster, a great way to learn a useful skill and it’s likely to, over time, put you in the state of flow which is not only calming but also a useful antidote to the frazzled, multi-tasking state we often find ourselves in through the constant use of technology.

Aside from the above benefits, experiential, practical learning using your hands (such as playing an instrument) is a really good way to train the mind to focus more intently, which is an extremely useful skill for a variety of situations that crop up in organisations, such as needing to listen closely and carefully to someone’s point of view.