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employability Student blogger

How Many Employability Skills Have You Collected?

Kirsty King, a blogger from our MEDIA programme examines some key employability skills and how you can build them up during your time at university.

During your time at university, there will be lots of opportunities to collect different employability skills. Some of the ways in which you can gain these skills could range from joining a club or society or completing a career development programme, to becoming a student ambassador or volunteering. The skills gained in your chosen activities will all add up and help you to reach your full potential in your future career.

Read on to find out some of the key skills that employers look for and how you can collect these at Queen’s…

Leadership

Employers like to see that you have experience of leading individuals or groups. At university, you could develop this skill by nominating yourself for a leadership position in a club or society, become a course, school or faculty representative, or even run for a part-time or full-time leadership position in the Students’ Union. This year, I have been on the committee for the QUB English Society, which has been a great way of learning how a society is run. It has also given me the opportunity to plan a range of events with other committee members.

Interpersonal

Having interpersonal skills means you have sensitivity and the ability to engage with and motivate others. A good way of developing these skills could be through volunteering as a peer mentor in your subject area. As a peer mentor myself this year, I have found the experience of helping first-year students with their transition to university very rewarding.

Communication

It’s important to be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing in a professional environment. You could develop this skill by writing for the university newspaper or getting involved in student radio. By taking part in the MEDIA Programme at Queen’s this year, I have learnt about how to communicate effectively in written blogs and social media posts. Furthermore, by presenting some segments on Queen’s Radio shows this year I have developed my oral communication skills. 

Problem Solving

Employers like to see that you can cope with complex situations. By taking part in a study or work placement at home or abroad during your degree, you will face challenges which you may not have encountered on your course, and therefore will have to use your own initiative. Last year, I took part in an Erasmus Study Placement in Belgium, during which I had to solve a number of issues which came with living and studying in a different country. Now, I feel more confident in my ability to problem-solve.

Teamwork

Being able to work in a team involves flexibility, adaptability and creativity. To develop your teamwork skills at university you could join a sports club, music group or any other team activity that interests you. During my time at Queen’s I have been a part of the Ladies’ Rugby Club, which has taught me the importance of teamwork and community spirit.

I hope this has given you an insight into some of the ways in which you can collect employability skills whilst at university. Why not check out the QUB Careers websiteMyFuture, or organise an appointment with a Careers Consultant to find out what opportunities are out there for you!

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CVs First years Student blogger TargetJobs volunteering work experience

7 things first year students can do to boost their employability

Our student blogger Maeve McDermott read the TARGETjobs Careers Survival Pack and here are her key takeaways. Number 4, get to know us better!

Your first year of university can be overwhelming. Moving to a new city and navigating a newfound independence, whilst mastering the art of referencing and attending lectures can mean that thinking about your future career is pushed to the bottom of your list of priorities. However, it is never too early to think about ways to boost your employability while still enjoying everything else that comes along with university life, and TARGETjobs Careers Survival Pack is full of tips on how to just that. Act now and thank yourself later and you can save yourself from that final year rush.

  1. Plan your path 

Thinking about your career early on can be daunting, so it’s useful to chart your direction and decide which route you are going to take so you have a structure to follow. Will you choose a sector/industry to work and look for employers in that sector? Or will you be more flexible about the role and sector, and instead focus on the employers you like and seek out their opportunities? Either way is perfectly fine, but it’s good to choose one path so you can effectively plan your career as early as possible. 

2. Clubs and societies 

Joining clubs and societies is not only a great way to meet people and have fun, but to gain those vital transferrable skills. Teamwork and problem-solving skills are part and parcel of being a member of any club or society, be it Brazilian Jujitsu or the Vegetarian Society, and it shows that you’re committed and have interests outside of your studies and your social life! Plus, having a role of responsibility through running events in any clubs or societies can demonstrate communication and organisational skills, which are sure to impress future employers – and can enjoyable too!

3. Part-time jobs and volunteering 

Part-time jobs and volunteering opportunities also give you the chance to build on those transferrable skills. Whilst stacking shelves or picking up litter mightn’t be what you want to do long-term, the ability to juggle work and study can demonstrate a strong work ethic to employers and really help you to stand out. There are plenty of rewarding and interesting volunteering opportunities available through Volunteer SU who are always looking for people to offer their time, and part-time work both on and off campus are advertised on MyFuture.

4. Get to know your university’s careers service

Explore what your careers service has to offer. From consultations to employer events to international study tours, your careers service is bursting with resources to help you boost your employability alongside your studies. Visit the QUB Careers website often and follow their social media to keep up to date with opportunities and events. Careers fairs and employer events are a great way to meet and network with employers directly – something that you can never do too early.

5. Develop a good study routine 

Establishing an effective study routine from the get-go can really work in your favour. Even if your first year counts for very little, having impressive first year grades will come in handy if applying for internships/work experience in 2nd year, as employers will only have these grades to base their decisions on. Plus, it’s good to develop those study skills early on in your university career to avoid the final year panic.

6.Look at work experience/internships

Be sure to check springtime deadlines/exam dates as some employers offer insight days, work experience, or internships for first year students. More and more large companies are offering these types of opportunities and having these names on your CV can look really impressive to future employers and can be a great way to decide whether an employer is right for you. After finishing your exams and assignments, what better way to start your long summer break than gaining valuable experience and building up your CV early on in your university career? 

7. Register with TARGETjobs 

Registering with the TARGETjobs website means you’ll get sent details of careers events, work experience and tips to improve your employability. They also run the Undergraduate of the Year Awards with an award exclusively for first year students, so what are you waiting for? TARGETjobs also run events to introduce students to employers, with some exclusively for first year students and some open to all year groups, such as webinars that can help with your employability. Have a look and see what’s on offer at targetjobs.co.uk/events

Doing just a few things per semester to boost your employability doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming. It’s really as simple as joining a club, volunteering for a few hours or attending an employer event and it can really pay off in the long run. Any effort you put in now will really help you in the future, and your final year self will be forever thankful!

Read more advice from TargetJobs here. 

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AHSS consultants consultations Degree Plus Graduate Outcomes 17/18 Impact surveys

Graduate Outcomes Boosted by Student Engagement with Queen’s Careers Service

Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18 points to a positive link between engagement with the Careers Service at Queen’s and graduate prospects.

Engagement with the Careers, Employability and Skills Service at Queen’s is more likely to improve a student’s graduate job prospects. According to published data from the Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18, there is a positive correlation between engagement with the Careers Service at Queen’s and graduate employment. 

Among the key findings determined from analysis of the survey results are that attending Careers events at Queen’s gives you a better chance of getting a graduate job. Students from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) in particular, significantly increased their chances of securing a graduate job if they attended Careers events. Students from the School of Arts, English and Languages and the School Of History, Anthropology, Philosophy And Politics are also more likely to be in a graduate role after graduation if they have successfully completed Queen’s Degree Plus employability award. 

Dr Duncan Berryman, Destinations and Statistics Assistant at Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills who analysed the data said: “We found that a student’s graduate prospects improved considerably, the more Careers events they attended. Around 65% of students who attended between one and four Careers events were in graduate employment after graduating. That figure rose to 76% if a student attended over 15 Careers events during their time at Queens.”

For AHSS students, graduate employment rates rose to 79% if a student attended between 15 and 19 Careers events – a marked increase in the Faculty total graduate employability rate. Students from the AHSS Faculty were also able to boost their chances of gaining graduate employment by accessing one-to-one appointments with Consultants at Queen’s Careers Service and by achieving Degree Plus. 

“Graduates from both the School of Arts, English, and Languages and from the School of History, Anthropology, Politics, and Philosophy who achieved Degree Plus were significantly more likely to secure a graduate job,” said Dr Berryman. 

Eimear Gallagher, Business Operations Manager at Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills said: “The Degree Plus Award offers our students the opportunity to develop their employability, skills and experience and enables them to differentiate themselves from their peers in competitive graduate job application processes. The positive link between students with Degree Plus and graduate employment is testament to the personal initiative, effort, time management skills and resilience required to achieve the award activities alongside a degree.” 

She added: “As a service, we’re committed to supporting our students and graduates to access the guidance and support they need to develop their employability. To see that that support and guidance is having a real, tangible impact on student employability is rewarding. We are proud to provide our graduates with the tools they need to enjoy a positive start to their careers.”  

GO.QUB.AC.UK/TOPTENTOOLSFORSUCCESS

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CVs Degree Plus DegreePlus employability Interviews part-time job Student blogger transferrable skills

How your part time job is improving your employability

Our student blogger Maeve McDermott, an International Business with Spanish student explains why employers love to see part-time jobs on graduate CVs and why the skills you learn at a part-time job can kick-start your graduate career.

A university degree can provide you with excellent academic skills – you’ll become a pro at writing essays and studying for exams and gain a lot of course knowledge. However, with thousands of students graduating with identical degrees every year, a degree alone isn’t likely to be enough to impress employers. While firms don’t expect graduates to have years of work experience and be experts in their fields, they do want students to have transferrable skills that can are beneficial in the workplace. When applying and attending graduate job interviews. you will be asked questions based on your skills and abilities (often in answers to competency-based interview questions) and part-time jobs can often provide a valid source of examples as internships. Part-time jobs are something a lot of students do alongside their studies, but the skills they gain are often played down. After starting a part-time job in Queen’s Student Guidance Centre in 2018, I’ve gained an abundance of transferrable skills, most of which are without even thinking about them! Here are some examples of how part-time work may relate to transferrable skills you can discuss at interviews. 

Time management 

Juggling a part-time work rota with deadlines, presentations and lectures is a skill in itself. You might have to work an all-day shift the day before a deadline which means you have to learn fast how to plan your workload in advance. Learning how to manage your time and prioritise tasks is a very important skill and one you can showcase to employers, as they are likely to value candidates who can work on various projects simultaneously with varying deadlines. 

Communication skills 

Almost all jobs require good communication skills – either verbal or written. For instance, I spend most of my day helping students and members of the public with queries of all sorts – from advising students on how to book a careers consultation to helping lost tourists to locate the Lanyon Building. Be sure not to underestimate the importance of dealing with customer complaints, writing formal emails to clients or colleagues, and communicating effectively with team members. These are all vital in developing proficient verbal and written communication skills which will undoubtedly be useful in your future career and valued by employers. 

Adaptability 

In my job as a Student Assistant every day can be different. Pre-pandemic, my role would vary from generating social media content, to helping students with queries, to hosting Western-themed careers fairs featuring cowboy hats and live alpacas (yes, really!). Having to adapt to different tasks and environments demonstrates adaptability, so think about how you’ve had to adapt to changing environments in your own part-time job – for instance, having to face a changing role due to the pandemic. Employers value employees who can successfully cope with changes in the workplace and greater adaptability often means greater productivity, and that you’re more equipped to face challenges.

Self-discipline/resilience

While working on Excel spreadsheets doing data entry mightn’t be the most intellectually stimulating of tasks, it can still demonstrate important transferrable skills. Even if some of your responsibilities in a part-time job are somewhat mundane and repetitive, if you can maintain focus and accuracy while performing a repetitive task, this can be a good display of your self-discipline and resilience – something that employers will greatly value. 

Problem-solving 

Being able to come up with solutions to problems is something that is very important to employers, and something that almost always crops up in competency-based interview questions. Problem-solving requires you to use logic and imagination to make sense of a situation and create a working solution by thinking outside of the box. In fact, the best problem solvers actively anticipate potential future problems and act to prevent them or to mitigate their effects. Problem-solving skills also relate closely to analytical skills and innovative and creative thinking as it is necessary to analyse a problem to come up with a useful solution and thinking innovatively or creatively can often lead to the best solutions. Maybe you’ve come up with a more efficient way to count stock in a retail job, or had to think on your feet to overcome a double booking in a hospitality job. No matter how insignificant problem-solving experience may seem, it can almost always be made relevant and applied in interview questions. 

Part-time work throughout university isn’t only a way of earning a few extra pounds alongside your studies. Having and sticking to a part-time job can demonstrate that you’re committed, and CFO of Liberty Global Charlie Bracken told the UK 300 that he was “more impressed by someone who has done a part-time job throughout university than someone who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro”. No matter how irrelevant your part-time job may seem to your degree, chances are it’s developing your transferrable skills significantly, and often without you even noticing.  

Degree Plus can help you formally recognise the employability skills you have built up during extracurricular work as student. Self-nominate by filling out the Combined Experience application form in MyFuture, evidencing two or more relevant activities – part-time jobs, clubs and societies and volunteering can all count.

Good luck!

Deadline: 1 April 

CHECK ELIGIBILITY AND APPLY

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Development Employer Insight Industry insight

Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA leads Queen’s students to tackle youth reoffending in Northern Ireland

The Careers, Employability and Skills team at Queen’s University Belfast were delighted to welcome Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA to the launch of the new student development programme ‘Real-World Challenge: Inside the Prison System’ on Saturday 13 March 2021.

The Justice Minister addressed the first cross-disciplinary cohort of over 30 Queen’s students to complete the virtual consulting challenge, which involved expert mentorship from justice agencies in a bid to tackle the problem of youth reoffending in Northern Ireland. 

Joined by NI Prisons Director, Austin Tracey; Olwen Lyner, Chief Executive of NIACRO; Fred Caufield, Executive Director of the Prison Arts Foundation and by staff and inmates from Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and Prison, Ms Long advocated for a collaborative, people-centred approach to reduce reoffending, highlighting the following points:

“Rehabilitation is about building positive and constructive relationships with those in our care as we challenge and support them to change. Regardless of what they have done, they are people, just like you and me, and should be treated firmly but fairly, and with courtesy and respect.” 

“There are a range of socio-economic factors which have been known to have an impact on reoffending, including poverty, social deprivation, mental health issues, substance misuse, homelessness and a lack of educational attainment and employment opportunities. These factors contribute towards the reasons why people become involved in crime in the first place and they are often exacerbated through contact with the justice system leading to a cycle of offending which causes significant harm to victims and communities. Addressing reoffending not only means tackling these issues but also creating positive connections back into supportive families and communities so that they become enablers of real change.”

“With children, offending is often a manifestation of underlying issues such as problems within the family home, disengagement from the education system, poverty and social exclusion. A new model of practice based on the child first, offender second approach, includes a focus on adverse childhood experiences, trauma-informed practice and signs of safety. Keeping children out of the justice system and out of custody in particular can be key to improving their longer-term outcomes.” 

“The development and delivery of problem-solving approaches means dealing more effectively with the root causes of offending behaviour in a range of areas including both domestic abuse and substance misuse… Having a safe place to live is one of the most important factors contributing towards someone moving away from offending behaviour. So, we want to improve the support offered to these offenders upon their return to the community to ensure that they do have secure housing. Improving access to opportunities for re-education and employment is also crucial.”

“A significant number of offenders have underlying health needs. The Departments of Health and Justice are working to improve health outcomes for people in the criminal 

justice system in particular collaborating with social care professionals to improve services for people in Northern Ireland Prison Service care and also via delivery of a renewed person-centred approach to supporting people at risk of suicide or self-harm…. The Probation Board are also engaged in the early scoping work around the development specifically of a Mental Health Court.”

“There is still much room for improvement at each end in terms of diverting people away from the prison system and from custodial sentences and also ensuring better rehabilitation and resettlement for those who emerge from the justice system.”

Claudine Sutherland, an Employer Engagement Officer within Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen’s University Belfast said: “We’re delighted that the Justice Minister and Prison Director could take time out of their busy schedules to motivate and inspire our students.”

Mary McLaughlin, a Careers Consultant within Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills, added: “At Queen’s, we’re always looking to give our students access to industry insight experiences and to offer them opportunities to apply their academic knowledge to real-world settings. This is particularly important during this academic year, with lockdown restrictions narrowing the opportunities for exposure to the real working environment. Our Real-World Prison Challenge is a very welcome example of how we have been able to diversify the delivery of our Careers service and embrace digital platforms to continue to support our students and graduates with all aspects of career planning, development and decision making.”

Queen’s University Belfast will be running similar Real-World Challenges in 2021 and beyond and hope to see many more students taking part. Check our events page for details.

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charity Degree Plus Development MEDIA Programme Student blogger volunteering

How to boost your CV and your happiness with charity and development work

Daniella Timperley, a second year Broadcast production student from Randalstown is an International Development intern with the charity Think Pacific. Here are her tops tips on getting into charity and development work as a student…

For some people, getting into charity work happens naturally and other people want to help but don’t know where to start. I’ll help you with that. As a volunteer for over seven years, I have encountered many ways that people can get involved in their communities and abroad. Here’s some steps you can follow to get started:

  1. Do a Google search

This may sound really simple and something you do on a daily basis, but it is as simple as having a look at what is available in your local community. Finding out what is accessible for you is important because in order to stay committed and connected to a voluntary project, it is best that it is easy to get to. Searching what is out there is great for inspiration on what you could possibly be a part of.

2. Find your passion 

Once you have done a Google search, see what those charities do and what causes/social issues they tackle. Is there any that resonate with you? If not, don’t worry you can research into the charities and pick one that you like the sound of. Shooting the charities an email and having that personal connection to a charity sometimes helps make that decision a little easier. 

            If you already have a cause that you are passionate about but there isn’t an organisation in your area that focuses on that, then why not start up your own foundation? I’m sure you’ve heard of the quote “be the change you want to see in the world” from Ghandi. Why not be that person to bring that service to your community? Make sure to define what way this charity will benefit the public and who you are targeting. 

3. How can you help?

After choosing a charity or cause that you feel passionate about contributing to, it’s best to start thinking about how you can be of help. You could have a skill that would be useful to a charity, such as cooking, that would be helpful in a homeless shelter to feed those in poverty, for example, or photography and writing skills that would help a charity create more of an online presence to bring in more donations and community engagement. 

If you feel money would benefit the cause of your choice more than your time, you could be a fundraiser for the charity. You could organise events that can be anything as small as a coffee morning or as extreme as an abseil or skydive. If it is a charity like a refuge, you could use the money you raise to buy supplies such as toys for kids or care package items to bring joy to the residents. You can even run a drive where your community could buy items and donate them to make an even greater impact.

Volunteering virtually

I have been making a difference abroad from the comfort of my own home through the virtual internship programme with Think Pacific. I have partnered with a Fijian organisation to create an awareness campaign for violence against women as an International Development intern. I create infographics for their social media and meeting handouts to provide key information on domestic violence. I get so much from the internship including:

  • Creating work that tackles real problems
  • Increasing my IQ and learn about Fiji’s fascinating culture 
  • Personal mentoring 
  • Endorsement for my work via LinkedIn, job references and a completion certificate 

I hope you now feel inspired to make a difference in your community or abroad. The rewarding feeling you get from helping others cannot be beaten. So, find your purpose and change the world!

Interested in volunteering at Queen’s? Contact Volunteer SU.

Did you know? Volunteering for at least 12 hours counts as one of the two extra-curricular activities needed to self-nominate for Degree Plus through the Combined Experience route. 

The deadline is 1 April.

Check eligibility and apply