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communication skills Employer Engagement personal skills Skills transferrable skills

Eight Soft Skills You Need to Develop

Stay ahead in the competitive graduate job market by developing your core skill set. Here are some of the top skills employers will look for in 2022.

1.Active Listening

It is no secret that our attention spans are a lot shorter than previous generations. We are so used to consuming hundreds of messages at record speed that we no longer know how to fully focus on one message at a time.

Active listening involves understanding what the other person is saying, as well as truly hearing it.

In terms of customer service, you hear their problem, but you also understand why it is a problem for them and what solution they are looking for.

2. Written, Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication

How we come across in emails, the language we use to talk to those around us, and how we use our body language are all forms of communication.

Understanding how you communicate and how you can adapt it to suit different audiences shows maturity and empathy.

It also suggests that you would be a good leader – traits all employers look for when recruiting.

3.Collaboration

Collaboration is similar to teamwork.

It is the ability to work with others to complete a task or project. 

Employers assessing collaboration skills will be looking at if you can bring a team together, how you support your colleagues and if you can develop an idea by offering constructive feedback or by building on it.

4.Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence indicates how well you understand people, and this comes in twofold.

The first is with your colleagues. Today’s world wants a peaceful workplace where everyone thrives. Having employees that can see when someone is struggling or having a difficult time and has the emotional tools to help them creates a workplace of trust and collaboration. 

The second is with consumers or customers. Products and services are driven by consumer needs and motivations. Understanding what motivates a person or what problems they need resolving will help you develop innovative products/services that will sell.

5.Critical Thinking 

Critical thinking is the ability to analyse data and form a judgment. 

With AI technology, a lot of today’s thinking is done for us. An algorithm works through whatever information you provide and offers a selection of options to choose from.

But not all information should (or can) be analysed by a computer. 

Having this skillset shows employers that you can:

  • Understand data 
  • Draw out common factors 
  • Apply those factors to the market/person/situation you are working on
  • Make an informed decision

6.Problem-Solving and Decision Making

This deals with how well you can work with others to find a solution. 

Everyone has their own opinion, but the skill lies in working with others to think the problem through and come up with a solution that benefits the company.

7.Conflict Resolution

Again, workplace norms are changing, and behaviour that was tolerated previously no longer is. 

As such, conflict resolution is sometimes needed. If someone in your team is making offensive comments or not pulling their weight, you should have the skills to gently resolve the situation before it escalates. 

This skill is desired among all employees, particularly those going into HR or leadership roles.

8.Professional Attitude and Self-Motivation

As a generalisation, there is a lack of accountability among new graduates. 

How many times have you blamed something on technology rather than taking responsibility? Missed appointments or been late because you didn’t get your reminder notification. Forgot to pay something because it wasn’t in your calendar?

Employers want to see that you are motivated and that they can depend on you. They want to see that you have a career plan, can manage multiple commitments, that you show up on time and have initiative.

Though image isn’t everything, employers also want to see that your clothes are clean and ironed and you are somewhat groomed.

It may sound shallow, but to employers, it shows you can look after yourself and, therefore, their company.

Our programme of Careers events and activities is designed to help you develop your soft skills. View and book upcoming events here

Read: Top Skills Employers Will Look for in 2022

Categories
Creative thinking Creativity employability personal skills Skills transferrable skills

11 Ways to Channel Your Creativity

How to overcome environmental and personal barriers to let your
creativity flow. 

What is creativity? “It’s new and useful ideas in any domain,” says Roisin Macartney, Queen’s Careers Consultant, who adds that there are barriers that limit our own creativity.

“These barriers can be from your own thinking, and from environmental [factors] and the environment that you are in. If you do what you’ve always done, don’t make changes and just accept the status quo, creativity will suffer. Challenge, ask questions, take risks to keep expanding your creative thinking. 

So how do we start to open ourselves up to being creative and thinking creatively? Roisin has these top tips:

  1. Give yourself space

“One of the things I would suggest is starting with a blank page. I think you have to give yourself time to be creative,” says Roisin, who add that this doesn’t necessarily mean scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest. “I don’t mean that you can’t be inspired by other people’s creativity, because you certainly can, but you do have to give your brain a time out, basically.”

She adds: “To be able to generate your own creative ideas, it might be that you take a walk, or you lie in a bath, or you basically stare at a blank page and give yourself the room and the time to be creative.”

2. Challenge the norm
Another way to channel your creativity is to challenge your assumptions. “Always ask yourself if something must be done this way. If it must be this way, how could it be different? So that could be, you know, an assignment that you’ve been given. It could be a work assignment, it could be just something in your everyday life. Does it always have to be done this way? How could you be creative and think differently about it?”

3. Stay curious. 
Remember that child that you once were always asking why and driving your parents crazy? It’s time to channel that child and ask why why why! “Try to keep that curiosity alive because it’s not only good for your creativity, it’s also good for your wellbeing. “Don’t lose the art and the joy of playing: rediscover the joy of getting out the Lego, the colouring pencils, or anything else to start playing and getting creative. It’s not about what you create while playing,” says Roisin. Adding, “It’s about letting the mind be creative, so allowing yourself to be open.”

4. Try something new. 
“It might be trying a new recipe every week. It might be learning how to use a new function on your software package…. Just keep trying new ways of doing things and that’s you being creative as well,” says Roisin.

5. Get inspired. 
While it can be good to have time out on your own to generate new ideas, it can also be good to work with other people, who also want to create, especially if there are particularly creative people that you can work with. “ You can bounce and generate new ideas from each other,” adds Roisin. 

6. Flex your creative muscles.
 “There are some techniques that can help you to keep stretching that creative muscle. It can be doing something to keep your brain active, like Sudoku or crosswords. Learning a new word every day, perhaps in your own language or in a different language, and what you really want to be doing is helping your brain to make new associations and build those new connections. So, you can encourage your brain to be the sort of brain that makes connections and sees patterns and therefore becomes more creative,” says Roisin. 

7. Try mind mapping. 
“Start with a central focus, whatever your theme is going to be, you start with that focus. You then put down main themes and coming off that central focus as branches from the center. You might sort of get creative using colour and using pictures and things like that, especially if you’re good at artwork and it can be really nice to do it that way. And you keep adding to it. And in terms of creativity, it’s likely to be the things around the outer edges where the creative thinking comes into it.”

8. Get brainstorming. 
You’ll certainly have used brainstorming in the past and the key thing about brainstorming is that all ideas are equal and valid, and they’re not challenged, explains Roisin. “Brainwriting is when people individually write out their ideas first. So, whatever the question or the problem, rather than everybody shouting it out for somebody to write, you all write it out. And then you share those, so everybody’s ideas all go up, and that can spark other ideas. And that can mean that people are not limited by other people’s ideas or louder characters or challenges.”

9. Scamper. 
“Scamper is based on the reasoning that everything new is just an addition or a modification of something that already exists. So, this technique gets you thinking about ways that you can build on that idea of change and changing something to create something else,” explains Roisin. “For example, I was writing this last year, but at the time there were some coffee bags being advertised on the TV. And clearly that’s just coffee and tea bags, you know, combined together. And they often sort of do that with things like chocolate bars, you know, Cadbury’s will come out with some new addition to the chocolate, just to make it a little bit more of a novelty to us so that we might want to go and get that and try it out. So, what can we add? Somebody decided to add balm to tissues, for example.” Linked to the Scamper technique is reversal. “Problem reversal is about reversing the problem that you might have. It’s a different way of looking at the challenge. So instead of looking at the challenge in terms of what do you want to do, you reverse it and say what you don’t want to do. For example, say you want your company to sell more pencils. Instead of saying how can we make our pencils better, the reverse thinking might be along the lines of: we want pencils that don’t break as soon as you begin to use them. And of course, that leads you to what you actually want to do to make the pencils better. “

10. The lawbreaker technique. 
The lawbreaker rule asks: What do we assume or believe to be true? And what if that were not so? “Lawbreakers are all about challenging those assumptions that we all make, says Roisin.  “For example, the burger has to be inside the burger roll. What happens if it isn’t? If we can forget about those assumptions, then what changes would we make? Things like putting the cheese into the crust of our pizza, you know that’s challenging the law of pizza; it’s challenging our idea of what we thought pizza was.

11. The great minds technique. 
This involves: what would [insert person] do? “Generally, it should be somebody that you respect and in this regard someone who is creative. So, what would that creative person do with this problem or issue? It can be an actual person, maybe somebody like Greta Thunberg or Marcus Rashford. You know, it doesn’t even have to be a specific person. For example, you might say, well, what would a 7-year-old boy think about this because again, as we know, the younger people are often very creative. So, what would a child think about this? What would you know, a character or like? What would Superman do?

You can access more resources on thinking creatively on our website. 

Categories
Advent Calendar advice Employers Interviews personal skills Skills

Gradfest 2021: Personal Skills Audit

Personal skills

Organisation

Time keeping 

Time management

Planning 

Self-motivation

Work quickly/ accurately

Using initiative

Coping with stress 

Self-awareness

Working to deadlines 

Multi-tasking

Prioritising

Working under pressure 

Assess and evaluate my own and others work 

People skills

Team work

Customer service skills Leadership

Interpersonal skills Communication (oral and written)

Presenting/ Making speeches

Networking Negotiating

Handling Complaints

Management/Supervisory experience

Persuasiveness and influencing

Technical Skills

Collecting and analysing data

Foreign languages

Technical skills/ Knowledge specific to industry

Use sign language

Write reports 

Occupational area specific knowledge/ information

General skills

Problem solving

Decision making

Numeracy

Arrange events and activities 

Business/Commercial awareness

I.T.Skills

Identifying/evaluating options 

Editing/summarising information

Identifying problems (troubleshooting)

Qualities Sought By Employers

Enthusiastic/willing to learn 

Honest Reliable/dependable 

Resilient

Creativity

Can accept criticism 

Hardworking 

Conscientious 

Sensitive to others

 Assertive 

Friendly/likeable 

Outgoing 

Driven/ambitious 

Independent

Proactive

Cooperative

Trustworthy

Fair 

Patient/Calm 

Energetic 

Socially confident 

Optimistic 

Respectful

Polite

Original

Detail orientated

Adaptable/flexible

Able to take responsibility

REMEMBER – when saying you have certain skills you need to be prepared and be able to demonstrate HOW you have EFFECTIVELY used this skill

Some sources of examples:

Placements/internships

Part time Jobs/ holiday work Voluntary work

DegreePlus

Practical/Technical knowledge Project/ research work Student representation

Clubs and societies Enterprise programmes Courses and Seminars

Sports

Music

Drama

Travel Languages Charity Interests

Anything that involves teamwork or skill will be highly desirable

Find out more about how you can develop your personal skills on our website. 

Categories
Advent Calendar advice Commercial Awareness personal skills Skills

Careers Advent Calendar: Understanding Commercial Awareness

Employers often look for commercial awareness in candidates. Here are three things we learned from the Open University’s free Commercial Awareness course:

1. How to understand an organisation and how it creates value

When researching an organisation, you shouldn’t just look at what an organisation does, but how it does it; explore the activities and processes within an organisation. From the outside, two organisations may appear to be delivering equivalent services or products in the same way. They may have broadly similar suppliers and workforce sizes, their location and other large-scale features may even be comparable. Yet the costs incurred by processes inside these two apparently similar ‘black boxes’ may be vastly different. So, although what goes into each organisation and what comes out may seem pretty much the same, the ways in which they create value could be radically distinct.

2. How to understand an organisation’s value

An organisation is a machine for adding value. In its simplest form this means it takes an input at one value and, if successful, converts it to an output at a higher value.

The concept is seen most clearly in manufacturing, where raw materials are worked on to produce finished goods that customers value and are prepared to pay a premium for. Whilst the raw materials or components already had worth, the process of manufacturing added more value.

Commercial awareness means being aware of how change to one aspect of an organisation’s system can have disproportionate, far- and wide-ranging impacts on many other components.

3. Where you fit in in the value chain

The course mentions three components in the value chain: 

  • creativity: coming up with a new product or process
  • manufacturing: churning out the product (this is the tangible part of the chain but it adds less value than you might think)
  • marketing, branding and advertising.

When it comes to applying for a position within an organisation, ask yourself

  • Does your role fit neatly and exclusively into one of these three stages?
  • In terms of a value chain are you closest to the ‘inputs’ or the ‘outputs’ of your organisation? (Roles close to the input end might be procurement, enquiries, goods received, etc., those nearer to the output end might be invoicing, delivery, after-sales services, etc.).
  • We talk of a value ‘chain’ – but to what extent does a linear chain (receiving work and passing it on, with added value) represent your work situation? 

Reflecting on the above will help you demonstrate your commercial awareness to a potential employer. 

Access more useful resources to build your commercial awareness on our website

Categories
Advent Calendar Leadership personal skills Skills

Careers Advent Calendar: 15 Skills That Make a Good Leader

  1. Honesty and integrity

2. Confidence

3. Inspire Others

4. Commitment and Passion

5. Good Communicator

6. Decision Making Capabilities

7. Accountability

8. Delegation and Empowerment

9. Creativity and Innovation

10. Empathy

11. Resilience

12. Emotional Intelligence

13. Humility

14. Transparency

15. Vision and Purpose

Read more about the 15 leadership skills here

Discover more about leadership on the skills section of our site. 

Categories
Advent Calendar advice communication skills personal skills presentations

Careers Advent Calendar: 5 quick tips for effective presentations

  1. Prepare – think about the audience, what you want to achieve, and create a rough outline of what you need to include and what visual aids you will use. Presentations vary in formality so try to get a sense of what your tutor expects in advance. 

2. Organise – a presentation, like an essay, needs an introduction/overview, main body with clear sections and a conclusion to reinforce important points. A good presentation needs interesting content. Think about how much information you can adequately cover in the time that you have. 

3. Deliver – use notes, cues and prompts (rather than reading word-for-word from a page) and speak to the audience (not to your page!) Look around the room, make eye-contact with the audience, if you can, and speak slowly and clearly. Think about your posture and voice. 

4. Visual aids and handouts – spend some time working on a complementary and informative way to present your information and highlight the main points. This often includes PowerPoint’s: use a large font size, avoid more than six points on a slide and use colour, pictures or graphs to keep your slides interesting. If you are using handouts, avoid large lumps of text; keep these brief and informative too. Be sure to refer to specific slides or sections of the handout in your presentation. 

5. Deal with nerves – A presentation is a performance. To control your nerves, be well-prepared: keep practising and then practice some more! Make a one-to- one appointment to practice in front of a tutor or ask a friend to watch you practice. Make sure that the presentation runs to the right time. Use confident and friendly body language to convey that you are relaxed. Use a clear voice and speak loudly enough. Slow down – it is natural to speed up if you are feeling nervous but breathe and take pauses. 

Want more communication tips? Visit the skills section of our website. 

Categories
Advent Calendar advice group projects group work Learning development personal skills Teamwork

Careers Advent Calendar: Succeed in Group Work – Despite Social Distancing

Tips for the first meeting 

✔️ Make a positive start: Smile, ask questions, offer suggestions, make notes, talk predominantly about your group project 

✔️ Introduce each other: Some people might not know each other 

✔️ Take time: Don’t rush into the first meeting, first impressions are important 

✔️ Identify the task: Make sure everyone understands the assignment and what is needed to successfully complete the group work i.e., read the assignment instructions together


✔️Agree on rules: Everyone should be clear on what to expect, how to contribute and what happens if he/she does not participate appropriately


✔️ Identify areas of expertise: Who is good in what? Look up Belbin’s Team Role Inventories to help you with that process 

✔️  Identify common practice: Who will be taking notes, who are you going to decide on things? 

✔️ Make a plan: In one of the earlier meetings agree on a schedule e.g., when is what finished by whom? 

✔️  Have a set agenda: Agree at the beginning of the meeting what issues need to be addressed 

✔️  Be organised: Leave the meeting knowing what each of the group members has to do 

✔️  Evaluate: Start off the meeting with a summary of what has been achieved so far 

✔️  Be democratic: Let all people have a say and be polite to each other 

✔️  Keep records: Keep clear records of meetings and attendance and make sure there is a record of who has done what 

Things to consider 

✔️ Before you submit or give the presentation make sure
you’ve met all the demands set out by your lecturer or school 

✔️ In case you are asked to work on a written assignment be aware that in should be a coherent piece of work i.e., allocate who will proofread, who edits the paper, how are you referencing, what kind of abbreviations etc. you will use 

✔️ Email communication can be a challenge. Be aware of
your tone of voice as written words can often sound harsher than intended 

Group work will be successful if you… 

✔️ Have clear objectives, agreed goals and allocated roles 
✔️ Reach agreements at most meetings
✔️ Complete tasks as agreed
✔️ Are all participating 
✔️ Are listening to each other
✔️ Generate an open and trusting atmosphere 
✔️ Allow opinions to be questioned
✔️ Respect each other
✔️ Use your time effectively
✔️ Have a systematic approach to discussion 
✔️ Regularly review the process
✔️ Share information
✔️ Can keep up a good communication 

Group work will go wrong if you… 

✔️  Are wasting time 

✔️  Are not taking the task serious 

✔️  Have no clearly articulated roles and tasks 

✔️  Have a weak leadership 

✔️  Lack planning 

✔️  Have no clear agendas 

✔️  Lack support 

✔️  Isolate certain group members 

✔️  Are going into too much procedural detail 

✔️  Shot down ideas of each other 

✔️  Lack innovation and communication 

Learn more about Teamwork and other vital personal attributes to develop at university