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All jobs require an employee to have certain skills and attributes that enable them to do their work properly and effectively. Graduate jobs in particular are conspicuous in their need for such qualities. To be truly employable, the graduates who fill these jobs should be capable of doing not only their own job, but at least a hundred others besides. They must possess a portfolio of skills such that they are flexible enough to adapt to any number of roles and situations.
As well as the standard qualities such as:
Employers also look for a number of other attributes, such as:
You may be thinking, 'Fine, but what is problem solving? Does enthusiasm mean what I think it does? I can talk, but is that the same as good verbal communication skills?' And you would be right to ask these questions. Too often do such concepts receive mere lip service, glossing over their true meaning and significance in favour of simplistic rhetoric. To get to the bottom of employability, you should take some time to think about what these sometimes abstract skills and qualities actually mean and how you can demonstrate to a potential employer that you possess these skills.
Broadly speaking, we can break the many employability development opportunities of the higher education experience into three:
In a perfect world, the university you attend would make no difference to your subsequent employability. In this kind of world, a 2:1 in English from the University of Oxford would mean exactly the same as a 2:1 in English from Manchester Metropolitan University. Of course, in reality, this is not the case.
For the right or wrong reasons, there is a hierarchy of universities and colleages, largely based on tradition but also on particular strengths and weaknesses, which moves employers to favour certain institutions and reject others. Regardless of whether or not it is a legitimate recruitment practice, the truth is that courses do vary a great deal between institutions. Different syllabuses, teaching staff, facilities, levels of student support and so on mean that the defining characteristic of a university degree course tends not to be the subject but the institution.
But why will the university you attended make such a difference to your future employability? It might help to break the general concept of employability into two: actual employability and perceived employability. Actual employability is the collection of skills and qualities that an employable individual has about them. While it is largely down to the specific person, individual universities have differing effects on your actual employability because they each have their own unique set of characteristics. By way of example, consider the following factors:
Perceived employability is the element of employability that is largely out of your hands, otherwise known as 'reputation' and it is defined by the beliefs and opinions of employers of your institution. These opinions/judgements can be based on traditional views, league tables and personal experience, either first-hand because the employer has studied there, or from employing other graduates from the university.
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