The National Centre for Universities and Business has commissioned me to write about student employability.


What are the main professional skills required by undergraduates in today’s workplace?

If you're a fresher, employability is probably not a topic at the forefront of your mind, but it’s so important to make the most of your university experience and seize every opportunity you can to build skills and experience for a standout CV.


Valuable skills can be honed all the time, not just on a work experience placement. On your university course, you have many opportunities to build up your skills: team building, leadership, presenting, organising events and promoting events. All of this experience can go on your CV once you graduate because you’re aiming for success in the job market.

Using the information from Knight and Yorke’s ‘Skills plus’ research project (2003), I have created a checklist for the top skills required by undergraduates in today’s workplace:


• Personal qualities: these are positive qualities that university gives you the chance to refine and strengthen. These qualities include self-awareness, self-confidence, stress tolerance, reflectiveness and initiative. Employers value such characteristics – for them, it’s not just about what you can do, but also about who you are as a person. Be clear about your values and motivations. They need to know whether they can trust you and whether they will enjoy working with you.


• Process skills: these are both technical and personal skills, such as the ability to use different software (be mindful of the modules and workshops that you pick), as well as prioritising, planning and working with others.


• Core skills: these can be anything from reading, numeracy, languages, creativity, written and oral communication to listening skills. Take advantage of those dreaded group presentations. It’s so important to get used to speaking in front of people. This is a safe environment – you can break through the pain barrier and learn from your mistakes!  Work on these skills now and you will be able to cope better in the work place.  Also, make regular trips to the library and enjoy all those free books, specialist press, journals and daily newspapers. Are you keeping in touch with trends in your sector and current affairs? Try opening your mind by reading something unrelated to your degree.


Use the careers section of your university website. Make the most of your strengths, but also try to work on areas that could be holding you back. Get loads of work experience (voluntary and/or paid). All of the skills and qualities you are developing at university can be transferred across different roles and sectors.


View the blog on the National Centre for Universities and Business website. ©Tessa Webb, September 2014