Categories
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
Employer Engagement Employers transferrable skills

Why Queen’s Produces The Best Graduates: Transferable Skills

COMMERCIAL AWARENESS AND IMPROVING BUSINESS PRACTICES

 “We actively encourage our students to research their target industry to develop a commercial understanding and a big-picture focus of the challenges an employer is facing – so they are better placed to communicate how they can actively contribute to improving business performance,” says Sandra Scannell, Head of Employer Engagement at Queen’s.

Courtney Ward, a Quality Team Leader at Randox adds: “Commercial awareness means having a real understanding of all the key companies operating in a specific industry or sector, a knowledge of the different products that those different companies sell, what services they offer. We demand graduates who have done their market research, and know who the key players are in their area.”

EMBRACING WORKPLACE SYSTEMS & TECH

“Even outside the tech sector, employers are demanding graduates who can embrace innovation to maximise performance,” says Sandra. “Queen’s students not only understand, but they ‘live’ technology.”

Dermot Murray, Senior QA Engineer at Version 1 says: “In terms of innovation and bringing a fresh perspective to companies, Queen’s graduates are at the forefront of theoretical thinking. We demand graduates who can apply this knowledge into the real world and be the catalysts for leading change.”

THINKING LATERALLY: PROBLEM SOLVING & CREATIVITY

“Problem-solving abilities are essential in virtually any graduate role,” says Sandra. “Employers want to know graduates can think strategically to tackle challenges and that they can use creative thinking to develop innovative solutions.”

Leona McGirr, a Team Leader at Fusion Antibodies says: “We want graduates who can think ahead and see the bigger picture; see how one little thing can impact another. It’s about having a different viewpoint and a different perspective on a problem. That’s key.”

WORKPLACE CULTURE: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND RESILIENCE

“In the global graduate job market, employers value cross-cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence,” says Sandra.

“Employers want to know that graduates can respond well to change, and that they have the ability to identify and deal with their own emotions and to recognise and understand the feelings of others.”

Rebecca Sinclair, a Student Talent Advisor at EY’s London office says: “Emotional intelligence is particularly valued in professional services, in the roles that you’re working with clients, and you’re building those relationships with clients. We value graduates with that emotional intelligence skill, who are able to collaborate really well with colleagues or with clients and build positive relationships.”

FUTURE LEADERS: INFLUENCING, PERSUADING AND TEAMWORK

“The mark of a leader is getting true buy-in from colleagues, clients and bosses.  It involves good communication, persuasion and negotiation – but ultimately, it’s about graduates with the ability to sell their vision for the future,” says Sandra.

Viktorija Mikalauskaite, a Senior Associate in the Legal Department at FinTrU says: “Influencing is a combination of communication and persuasion and negotiation, but it also involves confidence, which is an extremely important factor. We value graduates who can flex their communication style, according to their audience.”

 Read next: Why Queen’s produces the best graduates

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
British Council Global Opportunities transferrable skills Virtual internships

Inside my Virtual Internship with the British Council

Daniel Tunstall, a Liberal Arts Master’s student completed a four-week summer internship with the British Council, analysing feedback and data from the International Schools Exchange Programme. Here is how he got on.

Did you know that the transferable skills gained on an Arts degree can lend themselves to a career in data analytics? Just ask Daniel Tunstall, an MA Liberal Arts student from Queen’s who recently completed a four-week summer internship with the British Council, analysing feedback and data from the International Schools Exchange Programme. His communication skills and eye for insight helped him visualise the data to uncover the story. Read his blog to find out how he got on:

What did the internship involve?

Over the course of four weeks, I have completed an internship with the British Council where I developed skills in analysing and displaying qualitative data so that it can be effectively used in the future to understand the successes and weaknesses of the programme. 

What soft skills did you develop?

This internship introduced me to the processes of working within a team of a global organisation where people are focusing on different tasks and how these teams work together to ensure that all tasks are done efficiently to the required standard. This opportunity provided me with an insight into the specific skills needed to work well in a team and allowed me to develop my understanding of adaptability and resilience in collecting feedback of my work and using it to improve it and fulfil the expectations. 

What practical skills did you develop?

This internship has also developed my ability to analyse data due to the requirements for me to look at the feedback for the programme and identify gaps in the data which need to be further explored in the future. Within this process, I conducted thematic analyses of the data and identified the possible improvements that could be made within the programme to ensure success in the future. Through creating two further questionnaires to collect more data, I had to use the knowledge from my analysis to isolate these improvements and allow participants the opportunity to offer recommendations. 

How did the experience develop your understanding of workplace culture? 

The British Council invited me to attend global events that they were holding such as Windrush Day, a celebration of immigration to Britain. By being invited to these events, I was able to understand how they host global events and the extent to which the organisation runs on an international basis. 

How has the experienced influenced your future career plan?

I have thoroughly enjoyed working within this organisation as an intern because I have developed valuable skills in data collection and handling which are specific and difficult skills to develop. Furthermore, this opportunity has provided me with a unique experience into understanding how international organisations operate which will influence and impact my future decisions when it comes to employability considerations. 

If you are wondering what you could do with your degree, and where your transferable skills could take you, catch up on our Industry Insight series and explore what industry are growing and how you can ride job market trends. 

GO.QUB.AC.UK/INDUSTRYINSIGHT

Categories
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 

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