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About this book

This book takes a hands-on approach to skills development and will help your students to stand out from the crowd, both during their studies and when applying for jobs. It supports students in the development of key organisational and interpersonal skills, including time management, teamwork and leadership, through activities and reflective tasks. It also provides practical guidance on developing vital entrepreneurial attributes, such as critical thinking and problem solving, and articulating these skills to prospective employers.

This text is an essential resource for all students looking to develop the skills, experience and attributes which are desired by today’s employers. It is also ideal for students on personal development planning and employability modules across all disciplines and levels.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Understanding and developing yourself

Abstract
Becoming increasingly self-aware and developing yourself requires commitment and, like a lot of skills, it is best learnt by doing. This section provides an overview of different ways to increase your self-awareness and discusses why it is important for both your studies and your employability. Being self-aware involves having a strong understanding of your personality, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, motivations and values, and recognising how they are interconnected and impact on your actions and interactions. Self-awareness enables you to better understand why you feel, behave, act and react the way you do, and at university and in the workplace having self-awareness will increase your ability to:
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Organisational skills

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. Time management

Abstract
Whatever you are juggling (study, clubs, family, a job), you will find there is a lot happening at university and it is important for you to be able to manage all the different demands on your time. If you do not, you can find things quickly mount up and before you know it you are missing deadlines and feeling stressed and demotivated. There will be some areas of time management that you feel confident about. For example, you might be good at planning your week, keeping appointments or avoiding procrastination. The audit below will help you identify the skills you have and see where the gaps are, which is key to thinking about how you are going to develop. Think about each question and choose the answer that best describes your current level of experience or skill.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 3. Project management

Abstract
As the examples above illustrate, a project is distinct from everyday tasks or ongoing activities in that it has particular constraints or parameters. These should include a predetermined timeframe, particular aims or outcomes and finite resources. As such, managing projects can be like juggling, in that you need to manage different aspects of the project at the same time if you are going to ensure overall success. Drawing on the examples and definition of project management above it is useful to identify and reflect on projects you have worked on or managed. Completing the grid below will help you gain a fuller understanding of your project management skills and also help you to start thinking about those you need to focus on developing further.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Interpersonal communication

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. Communication

Abstract
Communication is a two-way process; a way of sharing information, creating meaning and establishing a shared understanding. If your communication skills are limited, or you do not feel confident (maybe in giving a presentation or having conversations with people you do not know), you could find it hard to take advantage of some of the opportunities that arise during your studies and career. Building a repertoire of communication skills will mean that you are able to work effectively in different environments and situations.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 5. Understanding others

Abstract
At university or in the workplace, there are many opportunities to meet and work with people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. In order to make the most of these opportunities to understand others and build relationships, you need not only to look for common ground but also recognise and value people’s differences. This requires openness, in terms of having empathy and a willingness to engage with ideas, beliefs and values that may not be the same as yours, plus a commitment to increasing awareness of your own biases and assumptions and not allowing them to impede your growing understanding of others.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 6. Teamworking

Abstract
Teamworking is often the most effective way to get things done. Different people have different skills, strengths and ways of thinking and if you work together to achieve a shared goal, the end result is usually better than that which a single member of the team could have achieved by themselves. Another benefit to working in a team is the opportunity for ‘group learning’. In other words, working in a team exposes you to other people’s ideas, assumptions, attitudes, values and beliefs, providing you with opportunity for discussion and reflection. This in turn can lead to personal learning and deeper understanding.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 7. Leadership

Abstract
The quality of the leadership can determine the success or failure of everything from a short project to a large corporation. From maximising productivity and efficiency to increasing motivation, good leadership can have a positive impact on all aspects of work.Leadership in an employment context is not necessarily about being the boss or the manager, adopting hierarchical responsibility for a team or project. It often refers to the behavioural competency of leading which involves working to an organisational strategy, taking responsibility, motivating others and taking action. Leaders identify opportunities, use their initiative and make decisions; they display a positive ‘can-do’ attitude, are reliable and are inspirational to other team members.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Entrepreneurial attributes

Frontmatter

Chapter 8. Adaptability

Abstract
Being able to adapt to change is often key to moving forward. Think about all the new academic and personal changes faced during the transition to university, or the challenges you address as you progress in your studies. In each instance you have needed to adapt to make the most of the opportunities afforded by the change.The world in which we live is constantly changing. Jobs that existed ten years ago have been replaced by new technologies and new efficiencies. This changing landscape has led to a plethora of new job roles that no one could have predicted, with app developers, social media managers and those with experience in cloud services and sustainability now in unforeseen demand. Employers need people who are able to keep calm in changing situations, reprioritise and respond positively to the opportunities, rather than be fearful of the challenges, that changing environments can present. Research shows that 49% of recruiting professionals value candidates with adaptability skills, and this is even more important for entry-level positions, with employers citing adaptability as the number one valued soft skill for recruits at this level (iCIMS 2017).
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 9. Using initiative

Abstract
Developing the ability to use initiative involves building persistence, focus and self-confidence. Those that use initiative not only have ideas but, crucially, turn their ideas into actions. Not only can this help you stand out from others at university and work, but using initiative to solve problems and achieve goals is also personally rewarding.To what extent and in what scenarios are you already using initiative? Complete the skills audit below and use your answers to help you reflect on the questions at the end.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 10. Problem solving

Abstract
Problem solving involves analysing situations, thinking creatively, using initiative to take action, reflecting on your successes and learning from your mistakes to ultimately find successful solutions. Problem solving does not mean finding the correct solution the first time or every time but it means that you have the ability to go through a process to work out answers for yourself. Complete the audit below to help you see what types of problems you have most experience dealing with and also the approaches you take to solving problems. Then use your responses to answer the questions beneath.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 11. Critical thinking

Abstract
Critical thinking is a way of reasoning where the individual takes an objective stance and analyses and evaluates ideas and viewpoints. Critical thinkers think beyond proposed arguments or ideas, looking for interconnections and exploring different options, in order to reach a conclusion or point of understanding. This ability to think critically is valued at university and by employers because it is associated with clear and rational thought processes and is indicative of a broad set of skills, from self-reflection to the ability to communicate ideas. The audit below will help you identify the critical thinking skills you have and see where the gaps are, which is key to thinking about how you are going to develop. Think about each question and choose the answer that best describes your current level of experience or skill. Use your responses to reflect on and answer the questions beneath.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 12. Creativity and innovation

Abstract
Creativity and innovation can lead not only to new products and processes but also new ways of thinking. This is most evident in the phenomenon described as a paradigm shift, a term used to describe situations when the accepted ways of thinking or behaving completely change, for example the shift away from the assumption that the sun revolves around the earth. This type of change is often led by creative and innovative people who develop and communicate their ideas, even in the face of opposition from those resistant to change. Creativity and innovation within the workplace can mean different things in different contexts. Those looking for employment in the ‘creative industries’, such as the media, advertising, performing/visual arts, design, crafts or music, will use their skills to create new and original work to stimulate and engage an audience. If you are looking to build your career outside these sectors, do not be fooled into thinking that creativity and innovation skills will not be essential. Individuals with this skillset are a vital asset to any organisation in helping it to come up with new ideas, stay current and be innovative in moving the business forward.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Evidencing your skills to employers

Frontmatter

Chapter 13. Recording your achievements

Abstract
we looked at personal development planning (PDP) and touched on the importance of keeping a record of your achievements. This is a particularly valuable thing to get into the habit of doing because: Whether you incorporate information about your achievements into your PDP or keep this type of information separate, the checklist below will help you think about the range of achievements you should be recording and the types of information you might need.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 14. Writing a strong CV

Abstract
A curriculum vitae (CV), which you may also know as a résumé, is intended to provide an overview of your experience and skills to date. Employers and recruitment agencies typically spend around 12 seconds reviewing CVs to carry out an initial, first sift of candidates applying for a role, and as such you should take care to make sure that your CV is a useful, informative document. Crucially, along with the cover letter, it should always be tailored to the organisation or role that you are applying to. There is no absolute, one way to write a CV and the approach you take will vary depending on your experience, skills and the sector you are applying to. Research the style of CV that will be expected in your sector, for example some finance or legal roles would expect a one-page CV while academic CVs can often be three pages; however, for most other industries a two-page CV is advised. For information and advice on creating a CV, Graduate CVs and Covering Letters, written by Bruce Woodcock and Jenny Keaveney, part of the Palgrave Career Skills series, is an excellent resource for demonstrating the various different styles of CV you may want to adopt depending on your experiences and the sector you are applying to.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 15. Covering letter

Abstract
A covering letter, often informally known as a ‘cover letter’, is an additional document that you should send with a CV when applying for an employment opportunity. Not all employers will request a covering letter; however, it is good practice to always provide one. If you are applying for a specific role it can go a long way to helping you demonstrate your relevant skills and motivations for applying, and if you are applying for speculative positions or work experience the covering letter can be a powerful tool for convincing an employer to take you on. The cover letter should comply with all formal letter-writing etiquette and should include the information below.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 16. Application forms

Abstract
For some companies, the first line of recruitment is via an application form. You will be asked to submit information on your education and work experience roles to date, along with, importantly, how you meet the essential criteria for the role. In addition to this, depending on the role, you may be asked to answer specific application questions – these are commonly used in graduate recruitment where you are recruited on your potential for the role, rather than as a result of your relevant experiences to date. When answering application questions, take care to always comply with character and word limits; some employers use online software to sift applications which may cut your answers to the previously set word limit. Many employers will ask you to use their online application forms which save your progress as you go but do take care to continually save your form as you complete it, just to be safe. It is advisable to create your answers using a Word document, or a similar package; this will allow you to easily spellcheck your work (note: the spellcheck function is not available on most employer online application forms) and allows you to keep a record of your application forms. You can then cut and paste the content easily into the online application form. It also means that you will have easy access to the information when you are preparing for interviews and assessment centres.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 17. Interviews

Abstract
Once you have perfected your application form and been successfully shortlisted, the next stage you will face in the recruitment process will most likely involve an interview. This could either be a stand-alone interview or one activity within an assessment centre. Through the interview process employers will be looking to identify three things: Telephone interviews are often used as the first stage in the graduate scheme recruitment process. Increasingly replaced by the use of ‘video interviews’, this style of interview is often conducted with a member of human resources or, occasionally, outsourced to a specialist company. This round of interviews is traditionally used to determine your interest in the role and to establish that you meet the basic requirements.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian

Chapter 18. Managing your online presence

Abstract
Did you know that employers often now research you online before they meet you in person? Some graduate employers are going so far as to request LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter account details on their application forms. Utilised correctly, social media, personal websites, blogs and networking sites can be an invaluable tool in helping you to stand out from a crowd of other job applicants. Allowing you to truly showcase your personality and interests as well as engage in debate and conversation on relevant topics, these platforms can be a useful tool in allowing you to break out from the confines of a CV or rigid application form. The answer is of course, Student B. Some people may adopt the approach that it is safer to have no social media accounts rather than begin to populate accounts and run the risk that employers will see something they do not like. The risk here is that employers may think that you are not technology-savvy and in particular industries – such as marketing – a lack of use of such platforms will lead to a lack of knowledge. Employers are looking to recruit individuals who reflect their brand and values; the specifics of this will differ widely depending on the sector and job role you are applying for but if you are looking to stand out from the crowd, one of the best ways to do this can be through careful cultivation of the online ‘you’.
Eleanor Loughlin, Laura Dorian
Additional information