Postgraduate students – 4 steps to showcase your skills

“How do I convince an employer that I have something to offer?”

Having been immersed in your PG studies it can be daunting to face the transition into industry; especially when faced with submitting an application to an employer who may have little understanding of your area of expertise.

PTAIT_20160525_0687_Ana_I AM INGENIOUS

Let’s start with the good news – employers value PG students, not just for their technical skills and subject knowledge but also for the enhanced transferable skills they bring to an organisation.  Trouble is, after good news there always seems to be a ‘but’ doesn’t there?  The ‘but’ in this case is that you may need to change your mind set and approach to allow for employers not having an immediate appreciation of how their business might benefit from your skills.

1. Identify your transferable skills

skills quote 2

Put simple, transferable skills are skills that are developed in one context, and are transferable into another.

For example, if you give a paper at a conference you can use this as an example of verbal communication skills. Remember skills are transferable from your course, your work experience and your extra-curricular activities.

Prospects Job Profiles are great for skills needed in specific roles.

Enhanced level skills that PG students are particularly valued for include:

  • analytical thinking and problem solving abilities
  • ability to bring new ideas, curiosity and innovative approach to the organisation
  • ability to solve complex problems
  • project management and organisation skills
  • leadership potential
  • ability to work in a team
  • excellent communication and client facing skills

2. Articulate your skills

Skills quote 1

Familiarise yourself with job adverts and the skills specifications that accompany them – what language do they use, what key skills do they focus on and are there any obvious buzzwords?

For example, a large bank recently advertised for PG  financial modellers and quantitative developers. In addition to the expected technical skills, they also asked for:

a talent for creating innovative and practical solutions to real problems, strong interpersonal and communication skills, the ability to work effectively as part of a team, good organisational skills and the ability to work on multiple projects simultaneously”

The trick is to then mirror your findings in your applications – present yourself as an effective project manager, an analyst, an innovative and creative problem-solver.

3. Evidence your skills

Put simply: ‘don’t tell them, show them!’

If you don’t, you run the risk of sounding like a cliché. Putting the skill into context has more impact, making it easier for the employer to see your potential within their company.

Better to write ‘Developed numeracy skills by writing a successful funding application and planned budget and then maintaining and monitoring accounts to keep project to budget’ than ‘Excellent numeracy skills’. See the difference?

4. Showcase your skills

So, not so difficult when its broken down, is it?  You’re now ready to showcase your skills.

The Essex CV pack will help you present them in a CV that sells and check out CareerHub for our ‘How to Handle’ and ‘Successful’ series of workshops that are designed to get your application to the top of the recruiters stack.

Remember – if you’re applying for an academic (non-industry) position then you’ll need a specific type of CV. Read our Academic vs Conventional CV blog for more information.


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