Your non-academic skills are still vitally important and valuable to an employer. So don't underestimate what you have learnt outside of the lecture hall.
Students often focus on their academic skills and their final degree result while they’re at university – but don’t forget about the bigger picture and how much more you gain whilst you are there.
Many students will live away from home for the first time and learning how to manage money, shop and cook for yourself are all useful life skills. Time management becomes more important as you have to combine studying, socialising and personal care (washing clothing, shopping, cooking etc) for possibly the first time. These will all lead to greater independence and growth in your own confidence as you learn what you need to do in order to live independently.
If you’re living in shared accommodation, you will need to share your living space and socialise with people you haven’t necessarily met before – in the kitchen sharing food and spare time in general. In halls, you’ll need to get to know some of your neighbours and when you’re in lectures, you may find it useful to share ideas and information with fellow students. These events can put you in new situations and you will develop social skills which will help you become more accommodating and understanding. All this kind of thing can be translated into the work place when you get there, as you’ll work with different kinds of people in different environments. Some people are easy to get on with and others present more of a challenge! Managing your own social and communication skills to overcome any difficult situations will help you develop as a person.
These social skills will also be key to a much-dreaded but all-important part of virtually all professions – networking. Growing confidence, communication skills and being able to show empathy and interest in others are what make people successful networkers.
If you’re involved with sport you’ll be used to working in a team – your communication skills will be improved as you listen and speak to other people. If you’re working in a team, you’ll need to get your ideas across as well as listen to other people’s. Things like membership of a society or club will help develop your team skills as you deal with different people. Most jobs involve team work of some description and the more patience and empathy you have, the easier you will find things.
Alongside the writing that you do for your course, you may write additional pieces for blogs or social media. The more you write, the better you’ll get – the ability to communicate efficiently in writing is a great skill to have. If you can write properly, with punctuation and in full sentences, you’ll have a distinct advantage in today’s abbreviated society!
Most universities have debating societies and this is a great place to develop your public speaking skills and gain confidence. Talking clearly in front of strangers and potential clients/employers is a great skill to have and something that you can choose to develop if you seek out the opportunities. If it’s something you find tricky, start off with small groups – like your tutor group – and build it from there. It’s something that generally gets better and easier the more that you do it.
While you’re studying, you may have a part time job – if it’s sales related then great! Being able to engage in conversation with new people is a great skill – a big smile and an open-ended question are good ways to start if you’re just embarking on something new. There are many careers which depend on sales-type skills and the more practiced you are, the better!
These are all skills that are not examined or directly measurable, but are equally important to help you once you’ve landed that all important interview. You can talk about what other activities and events you have taken part in during your time at university, and how they have helped you as an individual – going on to say how you can use the skills in the workplace.
Make every experience count!