By Josh Clarke – Verified by Big Youth Group.
“What is the point in this?”
This is the question I asked myself over and over again whilst at university. No, I was not referring to nights out in the student union… I was asking that question to myself every time I had to write a 3000-word essay, cram loads of information in for an important exam, or try and organise a group presentation.
Like many students, I had gone to uni not really knowing what I wanted to do on the other side of it. But, like many students, I was pretty sure I did not want to directly pursue a career in my degree topic. I knew from an early stage in my degree that I did not want to go on to study psychology further or go into a psychology exclusive profession like being a therapist, or psychology lecturer.
Ultimately, I didn’t know what transferable skills I was developing during my degree, nor did I know how I could utilise these skills to help me get started in a career.
This is a problem that isn’t only exclusive to my second-year self, it’s a widespread problem across a large number of students and graduates, especially those who are the first in their family to attend university.
In fact, …
It was these problems that led to the development of my start-up Occumi. Occumi uses a unique algorithm to help students to identify and understand the transferable skills that they have developed from their educational qualifications and work experience.
So, let’s break down why transferable skills are so important for students and graduates in 2019.
What are transferable skills?
Transferable skills are of course skills that an individual has developed which can be transferred into different areas of that individual’s life. In graduate employment, transferable skills; often referred to as soft skills or employability skills, are defined as any aptitude, knowledge, or competency developed from personal experiences such as education, that contribute to future employment success.
Why are transferable skills important?
Employers are now putting a greater impetus on students showing that they have developed other skills whilst at university, relating to skills that can realistically be transferred to the workplace. A report from global multinational Infosys went as far as to describe transferable skills as a ‘universal priority’.
Many reports highlight the reason for the increased importance of these skills deriving from the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence and automation changing the way that many companies, and many industries function.
To match the demand for transferable skills from employers, universities have started to take transferable skills much more seriously to ensure that their students are better prepared for the world of work.
Tips for students to increase their skills awareness
Here are some of my top tips to help students increase their skills awareness during their time at university.
Reach out to connections who have graduated previously
What better place to get advice than from someone who has already been through the process. If you have older family members or friends who have graduated in the past and successfully navigated the tricky graduate employment process, ask them how they showed employers their skills. Furthermore, speaking to people who are working in different industries can give you an idea as to whether you have the skills to choose a career in that same industry.
As many students are the first of their family to go to university, it may be that you don’t have anyone in your immediate circle to lean on for advice on this topic. Traditionally this has put these individuals at a disadvantage when trying to figure out how to sell themselves to employers, and identify which industries suit their skills.
However, platforms like StudentRoom and LinkedIn are your friend in this situation. There are plenty of that you can reach out to people who have been in your shoes, and plenty of people willing to share their experiences with you. You never know reaching out to someone on LinkedIn could land you an opportunity to get some experience, or even a job!
Be open to alternative industries
Once you have made the effort (and paid the money) to study for a specific subject, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to go into that field for a career. However, that is not true at all. You’d be surprised as to how many doors the skills you develop in your degree can open.
For instance, I recently spoke to the head of graduate recruitment at an investment bank who said that they look for students from humanities backgrounds for financial roles, as they know that they have the transferable skills that they are looking for.
If you’re not sure what field you want to go into, be open-minded, look at different industries and see what roles could utilise your skillset.
Use the Careers service
From my time at university, I found that many of my peers didn’t use the university’s careers service. Don’t make that same mistake! You’ve paid a lot of money to be at university, so you may as well make the most of all of the support that is available to you. Sometimes just talking to someone impartial about your career prospects can lead to a lightbulb moment, and help you to realise how your skills can help you to get a job.
Reflect on your work experience
Remember that any work experience that you have developed over the years has helped you develop skills. Whether it was part-time bar work, working in retail, or an internship – these are all experiences that have helped you to develop your transferable skills. So make sure to spend some time to think what skills you developed from these experiences in order to impress employers.
Whatever you do, make sure you understand the importance of transferable skills, and be proactive about developing, and showing employers your top skills!
Look out for Occumi at your universities careers service. Our skills identifying algorithm produces a bespoke skills chart based on your education and work experience, making identifying and understanding your transferable skills easier, and improving your employability.