The top ten skills employers look for in graduates
Not so long ago the University of Kent collated the results of surveys responded to by such high-profile employers as Microsoft and the BBC, and summarised them to give us the top ten skills those employers consider most important for graduate recruits.
In tenth place was TIME MANAGEMENT – definitely a skill most recent graduates would have developed during their studies, once they’d realised they need to find – or make – the time for those studies.
The ninth most important skill was considered to be FLEXIBILITY – the ability to adapt quickly and successfully to changing situations and, in the case of moving from the world of academia to the world of work, changing environments. Sadly, for too many graduates that change from university to work can prove to be so difficult it makes employers wonder why they took them on in the first place.
At number 8, PLANNING AND ORGANISATION. Again it’s a skill graduates had to acquire – otherwise those assignments and that dissertation would never have been written. But in the working world, it’s not just the person making those plans and doing that organisation who’s affected: that planning and organisation can have far-reaching effects throughout any given department, and even the business as a whole.
At number 7, WRITTEN COMMUNICATION. Coursework, term papers and dissertations are written to demonstrate knowledge as well as powers of analysis and deduction, but they’re far removed from business writing, which needs to put a point across clearly and succinctly and – in many cases – to get the reader(s) to perform a specific action.
DRIVE comes in at number 6 – although some might consider that less of a skill and more of a character trait. Whatever it is, it’s still something employers are looking for in graduate recruits: that quality of determining what needs to be done and, no matter what it takes, actually getting it done.
At number 5 comes INITIATIVE. Again, that could be defined as a character trait, but then again there are certain skills involved in identifying opportunities and very definite skills needed to make the most of those opportunities, especially in a business context.
And this brings us nicely to skill number 4: INVESTIGATION AND ANALYSIS. This, after years of research and study at university, is probably the easiest skill for graduates to bring with them into the business world.
But it’s also a skill that needs proper development in a new environment: like initiative, investigation and analysis depend on detailed knowledge about the employer, the company as a whole, the competition and the market in general. And that’s why COMMERCIAL AWARENESS is the third most important skill employers are looking for in graduate recruits.
TEAMWORK comes in at number 2, and over the years it’s unlikely for any graduate not to have participated in one kind of team activity or another – whether it’s to score more points than the opposing team on the sports field, or to join with other students to complete a project successfully and on schedule.
And the top skill employers are looking for in their graduate recruits is … VERBAL COMMUNICATION – the ability to express themselves with confidence and clarity – without which no graduate would make it past the interview stage.
So graduates should be no stranger to verbal communication … teamwork … investigation and analysis … written communication … planning and organisation … and time management.
But as for drive, initiative, commercial awareness and the flexibility to adapt from the familiar environment of university to the strange new world of commerce, these are the skills employers are looking for – skills that won’t have been developed fully before, but certainly which need to be put into practice from day one if any graduate recruit is going to make a success of their early career.
And this is why we’ve founded Flying Start, so we can use our years of past experience to give graduates the kind of skills they so desperately need right at the start of their career – and to make a success of that career in the future.
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