Employability – a word I heard a lot during my first few weeks at the University.
I was told that Manchester is among the best institutions worldwide for educating/training highly employable graduates (UoM has been ranked 35th in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings, this year). What does that mean?
Indeed, the University organises various Careers Fairs and other events throughout the year.
Last year, even as a first-year student, I attended “The Big Careers Fair” at the Manchester Central Convention Centre. I met and networked with representatives from L’Oréal, AstraZeneca, P&G, Barclays, Jaguar Land Rover, Sky and many more. It was great – like a whole new world, because for the first time I understood the importance and relevance of adaptability and transferable skills. It didn’t matter (and even now, it doesn’t matter) that I was studying for a scientific degree; I was still a potential employee to most of the employers there at the fair, even though to those who were not science-related.
And that’s what I realised – that University teaches you transferable skills constantly, skills that can be applied to any situation and industry. If I needed further proof that employability is about more than my academic course, I got it when I met former students at one of the “Meet the Professionals “run by the Alumni association. I encountered people who showed me that I could work in science policy and funding (still fascinated by this title) or as a scientific consultant in a bank, rather than the typical/stereotypical job as a lab technician. They all talked about using the transferable skills they gained during their university career.
What is also important is knowing how to present and talk about your experiences, and usually the first opportunity you get to do this, is on your CV. Curriculum Vitae is the first means to impress your potential employer: it takes 10 seconds to end up in the right pile and not in the trash bin. So, a good CV is essential to get that awesome job interview!
The University runs CV surgeries appointments, where they can give you valuable advice about how to tailor your CV, from the font size to the content itself.
I have been actively searching for an industrial placement and so I’ve had recent experience of the whole application process – submitting my CV, going to assessment centres and attending interviews. I received great support from the Careers Services (located in The Atrium on the 1st floor of University Place).
For the first stage of my application, I had to answer competency-related questions, as well as “why are you applying for X?” I received really helpful guidance about what employers were looking for in my answers. , I recently discovered from one of the employers that I ended up in the “right pile” because I demonstrated my eagerness and enthusiasm through my answers and beat at least 300 people who googled their answers. So, don’t slack and tailor your application, it will pay off!
I also booked a mock interview session with the Careers Services again and had the chance to practice my interview skills. It was a very insightful experience, where I was given loads of tips and tricks (for example, how to answer questions with the STAR model: Situation, Task, Action, Result). I also discovered online resources offered by the University, including videos on things like “what to do in an assessment centre”.
The University also offers different workshops (e.g. “how to boost your LinkedIn profile” and coding sessions at the Learning Commons) and resources like career-advice brochures and “Employability Passport”, to track your skills as well as to help you set a plan in increasing your employability.
After being in University for almost two years, I can definitely see all the effort, money and time that have been invested to help us become the most employable graduate employees possible. I can honestly say it’s not something I have seen before, especially where I come from in Italy. Support is definitely here, but you have to put in time and effort too. You can do so not only by developing transferable skills and experience but by learning how to show them off to employers.
Good luck everyone!