Employability (Part 2): Five Top Tips for Showcasing Your Skills
Posted by: Sue Harrington, as part of School Leavers’ Fortnight
Often school leavers are caught in a seemingly irresolvable situation: you need a job to develop your employability skills, but you need employability before you can secure a job.
But consider this: as a school leaver, you may be more employable than you realise.
Here are our five top tips for young people just leaving school and entering the job market, to help you assess and develop your personal employability skills:
1. Identify and map your own employability strengths: Understanding your own strengths will help you to assess your employability. You can do this by completing Capp’s Realise2 strengths assessment (www.realise2.com) and then mapping your strengths onto the five elements of personal employability that I outlined yesterday. For example, if your strengths include Personal Responsibility, Persistence, Planful and Drive, what does that say for your level of self-direction?
2. Provide concrete examples of your employability: Look for the opportunity on application forms or at interviews to demonstrate your employability. Have you taken up a new hobby, researched it, taught yourself the requisite skills and become competent? Have you planned and arranged a holiday for you and friends? Remember, as a school leaver, employers will not be expecting all your employability evidence to be work-based.
3. Use work experience: Have you already gained some work experience, in the evenings, weekends or school holidays? This will have given you some insight into what it is like at work – what has it shown you about working in teams, solving problems or dealing with customers? What difficult situations have you handled successfully?
4. Gain more work experience: All work experience is useful for developing your employability skills and shows initiative on your CV and application form. Are there any internships available in jobs that interest you? Try searching the Internet or talking to your parents and their friends about opportunities where they work. Consider volunteering – unpaid work is still valuable experience and shows your work ethic to potential employers.
5. Find yourself a mentor – think of an adult you know who you respect and can talk to easily, preferably one who has the type of job you would like. This might be a member of your own family, a friend of your family, or the parent or elder brother or sister of a friend.
Talk to your mentor about their job and what it is like at work. For example, you might what to talk to them about the following things:
- How did they get the job? Where was it advertised? What did they include on the application form? What questions were they asked at the interview?
- What strengths, skills and knowledge are important for doing their job well? What are the challenges of their job and how do they overcome them?
- Discuss your own strengths with your mentor and how you think they map onto employability. Talk to you mentor about how you can apply your experience to securing a job. For example, you may have been the captain of a sports team at school (which would demonstrate team-working skills and leadership potential) or you may have learnt to rock climb or play a musical instrument (demonstrating initiative, persistence and drive).
Leaving school and finding that first job is both exciting and daunting. Whilst having the right qualifications is still important for many jobs, understanding employability and being able to demonstrate these skills to potential employers is key.
In fact, it could just be the key that unlocks the door to your first job as a school leaver seeking employment.