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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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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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“How I’m developing my career USP”

At Queen’s, you’ll find lots of opportunities to develop your skills, create your own brand and discover your own personal USP (unique selling point), that will ultimately get you hired in the future. Here, Lucy, Lauren and Daniella from our MEDIA programme reveal the different tacks they have taken to improve their employability and their career confidence.

‘I’m building an online brand’

Lucy Roy

“In the year of 2020, we have seen that anything can happen!  This year has meant that not only have we as students have had to adapt our ways, but so too have employers. The increase of webcam interviews has meant recruiters will be researching candidates’ online profiles more than ever before. So, there is now more pressure to demonstrate an online presence to potential employers and recruiters.  

But developing an online presence doesn’t have to be difficult! It can be as easy as gaining a social media following, constructing an online portfolio of works or starting a LinkedIn account. 

Discover how to use LinkedIn effectively

Not only is LinkedIn free to use, it is also a great way of making connections with professionals in your sector.  

There’s also a handy job search engine with plenty of job listings waiting for your application!  

Not to mention, you can upload your CV and create content for potential employers to view when they’re exploring your profile. 

So why not create an account? Simply add a professional photo, a summary of yourself, your skills and employment history and there, you have an online presence!” -Lucy Roy 

‘I’m volunteering online’

Daniella Timperley

“For a lot of young people, volunteering is a great way to gain skills for employment and gain independence. This has been a little bit tougher to do during the COVID-19 lockdown with a lot of charities closing their offices and working from home. I personally am a really dedicated volunteer of Women’s Aid and have been for over six years. I’m used to attending events and public speaking which both haven’t been possible. I’ve found a way that I can use my other skills to still positively impact the charity from home as I am a broadcast production student and have experience making short films. I decided I would produce short videos for the charity’s social media to compliment and promote their campaigns. For their autumn campaign, I made a short film called ‘Walk A Mile In Her Shoes’ where I emailed staff and volunteers to take a video of their shoes walking outside in their gardens or on their walk for example so that I didn’t have to come into contact with anyone and I could still edit together a really powerful piece to push their campaign forward and encourage more engagement. This really benefited my skills and working remotely under the extreme circumstances of the pandemic, but still being able to produce work.

Daniella contributed virtually to the ‘Walk a Mile in her Shoes’ campaign

If there is a cause or charity you volunteered with before the pandemic and you haven’t felt connected or felt there was no way you could contribute, then think deeper and approach them. Maybe they don’t know how you could be helpful but see it as an opportunity to progress your career and enhance and gain skills. For me, this was producing short videos because that was something related to my degree and I knew I was capable of it but whatever degree you are in, think about what skills you have or need for that career and approach a charity that could really do with your help remotely through these tough times. This could also be as simple as an online fundraiser for a small local charity that is struggling to stay afloat. So get involved and make a difference in your community from the comfort of your own home so you can develop your CV.” -Daniella Timperley 

‘I’m attending career-enhancing events’

Lauren Watt

 “Cinemagic, Belfast’s Film and TV Festival, hosts a CineFocus Jury event every year. If you like to watch films and appreciate the cinema this type of event is for you. Do you tend to discuss and review the films you watch? The CineFocus Jury event is for you! I recently took part in the event. The event is for 15 – 25 year olds which means it is the perfect event for students in university. You have the opportunity to watch movies from all over the world. Review, comment and judge them with forms that you send in. Ranking the films as you review them you decide what will be shown at the festival.

It is an interactive and challenging experience based on your critical skills and experience with film. You can add it to your CV as an experience.

It is pretty easy to do, you email and apply for the event. With a small fee you receive the details to sign and receive the link to go onto the online Cinemagic Festival online. You create an account; login and the event should be added to your screen. It’s as simple as that.

Cinemagic is a great site for events along the media sector. It’s also a way to connect with others in the industry and join events where they host meetings with professionals in the media sector. It’s a great place to gain valuable insight. So be sure to check the website out!” – Lauren Watt

Career advice with Dermot O’Leary courtesy of Cinemagic

For more ways to develop your employability at university, check out Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills website.

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5 Reasons to Apply for a KTP

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) could be the perfect launch pad, helping enhance your career prospects by providing you with an opportunity to manage a challenging project central to a business’s strategic development and long term growth.

You’ll ‘own’ your own project, linked to both our university and a business whose experienced teams will provide you with full support.

Here, Carolyn McFall from KTP lists five reasons to apply.

5 REASONS TO APPLY FOR A KTP?

  1. Fast track your career

KTP is a real opportunity to deliver impact and shape your future career development. 90% of our KTP Associates at Queen’s are offered permanent positions at their host company at the end of the KTP project and go on to progress within the business. 

2. Competitive salaries

All KTP salaries are extremely competitive. As a KTP Associate, your salary will be decided by the company in line with industry standards and with any other company employees at a similar level. 

3. Support from leading QUB Academics and company supervisors

During your KTP project you will have an Academic Supervisor from Queen’s who will have specialist expertise in the relevant discipline and provide ongoing support throughout your time as an Associate, as well as a day to day company supervisor to support all aspects of daily work in progress.

4. Training and Development budget 

You will receive dedicated coaching and mentoring and in addition to salary, an Associate on a standard two-year KTP project will have access to over £8,000 for training and travel.

5. Great perks

As a member of University staff, you will also have access to staff training courses, library and sports facilities as well as the option to join the University Pension Scheme.

To find out more, visit Queen’s KTP site

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Queen’s Careers Service Recognised for Excellence as they Support Graduates through Covid-19

The Careers Service at Queen’s has been awarded an AGCAS Membership Quality Standard for their service to students and graduates, as the university climbs the Guardian League table to 11th in the UK for student employability.

The Careers, Employability and Skills Team at Queen’s has been awarded Membership Quality Standard by AGCAS,the expert membership organisation for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

The award comes as it’s revealed that the University is now ranked 11th in the UK for career prospects after 15 months by the Guardian University Guide 2021

Trevor Johnston, Head of the Careers Service at Queen’s said: “Our AGCAS membership is testament to our ongoing commitment to supporting the best possible career outcomes for our students. This prestigious award is a result of the incredible hard work of staff across the Careers Service who have worked tirelessly to build online provision for career support and guidance amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

 “We recognise that the pandemic is having a huge impact on students and graduates. We remain committed to supporting our students and graduates to access the tools they need to maximise the career opportunities available to them.” 

As a result of government-imposed restrictions in the wake of Covid-19, the Careers, Employability and Skills team at Queen’s moved their entire programme of activity online overnight.

“From offering virtual one-to-one consultations to the increased use of live chats and virtual events and masterclasses, we’ve been able to offer our students and graduates access to the guidance and support they need to develop their employability,” said Mr Johnston. 

Recent Law graduate Norma Taggart said: “The Careers Service is a tailored, student-friendly accessible service. The staff genuinely care about your career path and work tirelessly to help you with practical advice on CV checks, interview skills and techniques to ensure you enjoy great success at Queen’s and beyond.” 

The Careers Service was quick to respond to lockdown, offering targeted support to graduates with the delivery of Gradfest2020, an online careers fair swiftly organised in June, in lieu of the cancelled Northern Ireland Graduate Recruitment Fair. 

“Gradfest2020 comprised bespoke workshops designed to help graduates navigate job uncertainty while developing key employability skills during the crisis. We have also played a key role in linking our students and graduates with our partner organisations, facilitating student-employer networking opportunities in the digital space, such as the upcoming virtual Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair,” said Mr Johnston. 

He added, “We are proud of our staff and students, particularly our graduating cohort, who have successfully navigated a challenging end to their university experience. With our continued support, we hope they’ll build the tools and resilience they need to enjoy a positive start to their careers.”  

The Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair is taking place on 21 and 22 October 2020 between 2-m and 6pm. Go.qub.ac.uk/Careersevents