As a student, you are on a journey to build a foundation for your future career. However, being future-ready is more than just getting good grades or completing a degree. It requires a set of skills and competencies that will prepare you to thrive in the workplace and make a positive impact in the world. Here are some tips to help you become future-ready while at Queen’s University Belfast.
Curiosity is a key driver of learning and growth. It helps you to explore new possibilities, discover innovative solutions, and enhance your creativity. To nurture your curiosity, be open to new experiences and perspectives. Take advantage of opportunities to study abroad, attend workshops and conferences, or engage in extracurricular activities. Stay curious about the world around you, and never stop learning.
Empathy is a fundamental human trait that is essential for building relationships, fostering collaboration, and creating positive change. To develop your empathy skills, practice active listening, express appreciation and gratitude, and show compassion towards others. Build a supportive network of peers, mentors, and advisors who can help you navigate the challenges of university life and beyond.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change, and overcome adversity. It is a critical skill for success in the workplace, where you will face numerous challenges and obstacles. To develop resilience, practice self-care, seek support from others, and learn from your failures. Challenge yourself to take on new tasks and responsibilities, and use them as opportunities for growth and learning.
Foster your creativity
Creativity is the ability to generate new and innovative ideas that can solve problems, inspire change, and create value. To foster your creativity, engage in activities that inspire you and allow you to express your unique talents and perspectives. Join clubs and societies that align with your interests and passions, and collaborate with others to develop new projects and initiatives.
Learn to work in teams
Teamwork is a fundamental skill that is essential for success in the workplace. To develop your teamwork skills, seek out opportunities to collaborate with others on projects, volunteer in your community, or participate in extracurricular activities. Learn to communicate effectively, listen actively, and contribute to a shared goal. Take on leadership roles where you can guide and support others towards a common objective.
Action is the ability to take initiative, make decisions, and achieve your goals. To inspire action, identify your passions, strengths, and values, and pursue them with purpose and determination. Take calculated risks, learn from your mistakes, and seek out opportunities to make a positive impact in your community and beyond. Be a role model for others by demonstrating integrity, honesty, and ethical behaviour.
In conclusion, being future-ready is a journey that requires continuous learning, growth, and development. By adopting these tips and strategies, you can prepare yourself to succeed in the workplace and make a meaningful contribution to society. Remember, your time at Queen’s University Belfast is an opportunity to build a strong foundation for your future, so make the most of it!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Rebecca Sinclair, a Student Talent Advisor at EY’s London office on why employers value cross-cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence.
What is cross cultural sensitivity and awareness and why is it so important in the workplace?
I think for me cross cultural sensitivity is really about cultural awareness and being able to work with different people from different backgrounds to you at any level. So maybe as a student, you know, working in teams of different people, welcoming people from different backgrounds to yourself. And then also, when you’re working your colleagues, your manager will when you become a manager, the people that are working with you might be from different backgrounds, or cultural backgrounds or otherwise. So I think cross cultural sensitivity and cultural awareness is being aware of those differences and celebrating those differences so that everyone feels like they can bring their best self to work really, or to whatever environment is,
Do you think an international experience like study experience or work experience abroad might help develop that skill?
Definitely, I think any experience you can get that puts you in a maybe out of your comfort zone, or that helps you to meet people from different backgrounds, you get different experiences under your belt will, will help. And there’s no better way to get exposure to different cultures and different ways of living and different lifestyles really than to travel. And things like a year abroad or study abroad or traveling, you may not always get the opportunity to do that at a later date. So the more you can make the most of opportunities that come your way the better I think.
What is emotional intelligence? And how is it valued in the workplace?
I’ve actually done some learnings about this. Recently, we have had the EY badges programme, and I’ve done their badge in Teaming. So quite a lot of the learning was about emotional intelligence and more of the people side of things, I think. So emotional intelligence is different to, kind of, IQ that you actually think about. Emotional intelligence is having that understanding of other people around you, and learning to be aware of other people’s emotions, or how they might be handling a situation so that when you’re talking to people, you’re working with people, you can pick up on those natural indicators of how they’re feeling. And if you’re, you know, delivering news, you can start to get to know that person. So you can think, you know, what questions might they have that are going to come up from this? What concerns or other emotions might they be feeling? So you can be aware of that so you can learn to adapt your style, so that you can work with them really well?
What type of role would require emotional intelligence?
To be honest, I think any role that you are dealing with any people in any, any platform, it would be useful skill to have in terms of emotional intelligence. Particularly in professional services, the roles that you’re working with clients, and you’re building those relationships with clients, which for us personal services, it’s what we do giving guidance to clients. So having that emotional intelligence skill, being able to collaborate really well with your colleagues or with your clients can really help and you can build that positive relationship with your client. So it is definitely something that we look for, throughout the process, that ability to work with others that are different to you, if you’re in a group exercise, making sure you’re read in the room, and you’re making sure that everyone’s you know, everyone’s comfortable, and they’re able to share what they think if someone’s being a bit quieter, you know, check in and see if they have any thoughts that they want to share what they think about that’s been discussed so far. So it is definitely a really important skill that we look for during the process.
What other skills are linked to emotional intelligence?
So yeah, there’s loads of strengths that are closely related to emotional intelligence. The ones that come to mind are resilience. So that’s one of the key strengths that we look for throughout the process. So resiliency, to keep a positive mindset and when challenges and problems come up, maybe you need to take a minute, think about what’s happened, regroup, and then keep towards that goal that you want to achieve and maybe that goalpost might change, but you still have that resiliency in you to keep going. So resiliency is a key one, and that links to team working and emotional intelligence, you know, being able to kind of rally your team around you, if you’re going through maybe a budget cut, or the switch to working virtually rather than work in the office, you know, trying to keep positive and, you know, working with your team to help everyone get through what could be a talent or could be a difficult time. So resiliency is definitely a key one. And the other one I’ll mention is adaptability. So this is another one of the strengths that we look for being adaptable is really about links very closely to resilience that looks better as a team working, and it’s about being able to adapt to changes that come your way. So if a that’s the scope of a project changes, or the budget gets cut in half, it’s about being able to still regroup, figure out what changes you need to make implement these changes. So maybe you need to have a change of timeline. And you might need to think, okay, what’s now our biggest priority, because we’ve got less time to get things done. Or if a date changes to five years in the future, maybe this project now needs to completely change, it becomes something different for the time being, until there might be other priorities that you need to work on. So I think being adaptable, and being able to collaborate with others around you know, what you can bring to the table, knowing your own being aware of your own emotions, and what you’re good at and what you’re bad at. And when you perform your best is all really closely linked, I think,
How would an employer, for example EY, assess emotional intelligence?
Our application process is partly through, like online tests. And we have a job simulation, which is the third stage at the final online test, and that’s linked to the job that you’re going to be doing. So for that one, you’ll get questions that are linked to the role. So say you’re applying for consulting or you’re applying for insurance or tax, it’ll be linked to that role. And through the questions that you’ll get there. We’ll be looking for that, that strength. So how do you work with others around you? How do you handle a change in in what’s going on? So you might get questions around, you know, how would you handle this particular situation? Or this news has come out or this something’s changed in the- your managers running late? Or the client wants something different? How do you handle that? So we’re looking for that resiliency? We’re looking for that collaboration? How do you work with others? And then at the Assessment Center, which we call that experience day, you’ll have different tasks that you’ll do. So some of them will be one to one, some of them will be in a group. And throughout, we’ll be looking for that collaboration, strength. So, you know, how do you work in a team? How do you communicate your ideas, and also how to make sure that everyone else is also contributing their own thoughts, making sure that everyone’s getting the chance to share and hope bouncing ideas around and how you then kind of bring those ideas together into the final outcome. And then the last stage is the final interview. And this is with a senior member of the team that you’re applying for. And again, they’re really looking for that collaboration, you know, so you might want to have some examples in your mind of how you’ve worked in a team, what the team achieved, but also, what did you personally do towards that team success? How did you support the team? How did you make sure that everyone, you know, kept going? Did you face some challenges? How did you regroup and keep that going positively? So it’s a vital skill anyway, but it’s definitely really important for us because we work so much with clients. So it’s a really key area that we look for.
And how can you develop that skill?
So, there’s two different ways to think about it. So there’s sort of thinking about the theory side of things and developing the strength. So there’s loads of good resources that you can do in terms of EY, I’ve done the EY badges. So I’ve done I could spend hours talking about it, but I’ll keep it nice and succinct. So I’ve done the teaming badge, which is very much about you know, how you work in teams, how you can make sure that the team is working effectively. Maybe you’re working like virtually as we are now maybe you’ve got colleagues that are in a different country or a different time zone, you know, how do you work together? So there’s learnings he can do through those kind of badges. There’s also a badge about diversity and inclusion. And that was where I learned a lot about, like cross cultural, we’re talking about a bit earlier about how you can work with people from different backgrounds. So there’s learnings you can do in that. And there’s lots of good courses on things like Udemy, about working effectively in teams and cross collaboration and cross cultural experiences. There’s also things you can do like on watching TED Talks. So I watched a really good TED talk that was called the power of introverts. And that was about something about their experiences of being an introvert and how they’ve gone through that experience, and how you can be making sure that those are quieter, and your team can still feel included. So there’s that kind of learning aspect to it. So is that good books and TED talks and YouTube videos that you can get involved in. And then there’s also the experience side to things. So when you’re thinking about your own experiences, whether it’s like workplace, so anything working in a team, you know, a consulting firm, or working in a team at a supermarket, or working in a team at a cafe or anything? What team experiences do you have? You know, try and think about who’s on your team? Or who’s in your, your business area? And how do they- How do they work? You know, and think about your own experiences? When are you happiest? What are you doing at that time? When do you feel stress, what might be causing that stress? And the more that you can learn about your own performance and your own emotions and what kind of drives you, you can then start learning about other people. And then you can bring that into practice, when you’re thinking about interviews and preparing the interviews, and thinking about what teaming experiences you’ve had, and it’s the in what did the team do? What did the team achieve? And then what have you done towards that? What’s your personal contribution to that team working?
Do you think a gap year might develop that skill a lot more?
So from my personal experience, I always went straight into the next stage, and I never took a gap year or year abroad or anything like that. It’s not essential, it’s not something that we look for, you don’t need to have it. But I do think that having that year abroad, or that experience says something a bit different, can definitely add to your, your strengths and your experiences. And especially it can give you a good platform to talk about, you know, challenges that you’ve gone through I know, some of the offer holders that we’ve had recently have talked about experiences like volunteering abroad and working in teams of people from lots of different countries and helping a community or doing something that’s just a bit different and a bit out there. So it can definitely add to your experiences your application and show that you’ve had these experiences and what you’ve learned from them. And it can get you to something a bit different to stand out. I think.
Do you think that travel can actually develop those qualities such as resilience or productivity, for employment in the future?
Yeah, I’m sure it would, I think resiliency is a difficult skill to master. So the more different experiences you go through, and you might have to face challenges and overcome them can definitely help build towards that. And many people do years abroad, or they spent time living in it in a different country that they would never have the opportunity to do. So you’ll naturally develop some strengths that you probably never would have had the opportunity to develop if you hadn’t had that opportunity. So I think it can definitely help to build your resiliency skills and learn more about yourself throughout that process as well. And also, it’s a great experience to try something different level a different country and you know, do something a bit different.
And so, why would employers like EY, for example, value resiliency or flexibility, in their employees?
So I mean, there’s gonna be loads of reasons why we look for it, but it’s definitely something that we look for throughout the process. I mean, look for it in our people. We’re very people focused organization, both in terms of the work that we do for clients, you know, we provide guidance to them, and what the client will need is constantly changing and evolving. A lot of the stuff we’re doing at the moment is on digital innovation and, you know, industries being massively disrupted by innovation and tech and especially that’s been escalated over the last year. Working virtually. So it’s a rapidly changing industry, a new regulation can come out or there can be a massive change in the wider environment like this last year has shown. So companies, our clients need to rapidly adapt. So we need to be there for them. And we need to be flexible and adaptable. And we need to be thinking about you know, what’s out there? Is there a new tech coming out? Or is there a new regulation coming out that might need to be thinking about so that we can be that go to advisor for them.
And so is that why employers look for someone who’s adaptable?
Yeah, so we call it agility in terms of the strength that we look for. So it’s about being agile to new, new things out there, whether that’s a new regulation, or a new way of working, or a new opportunity for one of our clients. And we look for that strength through your experiences, whether it’s, you know, previous work experience, or whether it’s working in a team, in a sports club, or working in some other some other experiences you’ve had in your personal life where you something changed. And, you know, it got through a difficult time or the last year and how you adapted to that and, you know, studied from home or worked from home or did something different. So we look for that agility, skill, being able to take on new opportunities, learn new skills, learn new, pick up new information, and then apply it to what we’re doing. So where you might have been our client site and been able to go up to a client and ask their advice. And the same in the kind of student environment, you might have been working in a team on a team project, and you can all chat and bounce ideas in person. And then you have to adapt that to online. And maybe you’re on a zoom call, or Microsoft Teams call or something else to then try and hash out ideas and figure out what you wanted to do. And it’s about how did you adapt to that situation? And what did you learn from that time?
How do you think employers can test a candidate’s agility?
So we like to look for that strength. And we like to challenge so you might have questions like, you know, what would you do? Or how would you handle if your client disagreed with you? Or how would you handle if your manager wanted to go in a different direction, and we’ll be looking for that response of how you’d handle the client, or how you’d handle your team. And maybe you’d, you know, reflect and go back and get some more evidence to support this change. Or maybe you’d work closely with the client on what they what direction they wanted to go in. And really, we’re looking for how you handle that situation, how you think about the clients best interests, how you maintain the integrity throughout that process, as well. So it’s the integrity of the company. And it’s also thinking about the client and how we can be supporting the client to get the best outcome for them as well.
How do you think students should use a gap year to develop skills such as agility?
Yeah, so I think it’s all about putting yourself out of your comfort zone during that experience. So whether it’s some kind of travel, or whether it’s some kind of volunteering, work, you know, think about what, think about why your comfort level is where you are now, and then try and think of things that are going to challenge you and they’re going to help you develop. So I didn’t take a gap year, but I did a volunteering project in Borneo, Malaysia. And we were working with a, a center there that work with disabled children, and we were building a sensory garden for them. And so through that experience, I had never had any real life experience of that before. And so it took me out my comfort zone, I was in a different climate, it was really hot and muggy that all the time, which I wasn’t used to. And I was working face to face with loads of different children I hadn’t met before, I hadn’t really had experience working with children before, and especially children with different kind of learning abilities. So that definitely put me on my comfort zone. And then I talked about that in my interview, but how I’d worked in a team with the other people that were there with me and we’re done like the physical work building this playground, but we’d also had this learning opportunity that hadn’t experienced before. And so you could talk about what you learn from it experience, how it’s then helped you when you go on to work with different people that you haven’t worked with before and from that learning so you can show that you’re really comfortable with working with different people. And you’ve had this experience and you’ve gained this from it.
Would you recommend something like that, like volunteer experience?
I would recommend, like I said, anything that puts you out your comfort zone, and especially through the last year, there’s probably lots of different places that need support at the moment. So I think any experience that you can get that will put you out your comfort zone, that will help you to learn more about yourself and also more about others around you can help. So there’s loads of different volunteering opportunities that you can do, whether it’s more, you know, working with people, and there’s opportunities like in a teaching English in different countries, or working with children or working with adults, or there might be opportunities more like project based, like helping to clear up some land or build a house or something like that. And there’s also opportunities closer to home, I find that there’s like National Trust opportunities you can get involved in. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be abroad. But I do think that having experience to work with people who are different to you and different to your background, whatever your background, might be, can help you learn as well. So that when you then go into the working world, you know, you’ve had this exposure to different things. And you’ve developed skills about yourself, and you think, well, if I got through, like that time when I was away from home and like compensate, I can do this project. So I think it’s good in that aspect.
Interested in EY? EY are currently recruiting. You can find details of their current vacancies on the Gradfest2021 site.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.