Employability Matters

On average, it takes a graduate 4.7 years to find a full-time job, and 2.7 years to find any job1. It certainly is a rocky road from graduation to employment for the youth of today. But, if you are a current student, or recent graduate, there are some things you can do right now to increase your chances of employment success, says Simone Wright, General Manager Human Resources at Pearson.



1. Get to know yourself – your strengths, abilities and what you want


Get clear on your strengths and talents. Reflect on what you are doing, the things you are learning, the skills you are developing and how you are growing. Get really clear on what you enjoy doing and start marking out the things that matter to YOU in a role and environment. Ask yourself, where do I want to work? What kind of environment do I want to be in?

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The best way to start to figure out the answers to these questions is by doing work experience. The more of it you do, the easier it will be for you to figure out what you are good at and what you want from your career and job. It’s imperative that you learn to recognise and capitalise on your innate strengths as well as your interests, abilities, and personality traits, and then focus on careers that are a good match for you.

2. Diversify your skillset

What I have seen time and time again is that the graduates who have studied a number of different subject areas are better prepared for employment than those who have studied a narrower range of subjects. In a nutshell, the different educational approaches, in different subjects, develop different problem solving skills. This means if you have studied a variety of subjects, you’ll probably have a more diverse toolkit you can draw on and apply in the workforce.

Again, work experience can help with diversifying your skillset - no matter what it is. Community work, sports, paid (or unpaid) internships – it doesn’t matter – just do it. If you have done it, put it on your CV - and always put your skills in the context of the job you’re applying for. In other words, think about how the skills you have learnt translate or transfer to the job you would like to pursue.

Employability Matters

3. Begin the process of lifelong learning

You must be powered by a thirst for knowledge that is not limited by job descriptions and traditional career paths. Who knows what new careers may open up in five years time thanks to new technology that doesn’t even exist today? In fact it has been estimated that 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.2 So even though technical skills in your chosen discipline are necessary and of course need to be developed, curiosity is an equally important attribute to have in order to be successful in today’s job market.3

Use your curiosity as a spring-board to agile learning – learn things on the fly and connect your new knowledge to your practice. Stay open-minded and question how things work, and once you are employed, aim for continuous development throughout your lifetime.4

4. Work on your personal engagement

Much of the research on engagement in schools5 and the workplace6 puts the responsibility on teachers and employers to engage students and employees with study and work. And they do have a responsibility. But engagement is a very personal, individual choice – it should come from within. Employers and teachers should certainly make an effort to create supportive, positive environments where you are more likely to be engaged – but then the rest is up to you.

Be aware that you have a personal responsibility to stay connected to the task you perform in any given moment. Each day – maybe even each minute - you are in charge of choosing whether you’ll engage with your work or not. You can power ahead, stay in the same spot or actively disengage.

Unfortunately it can be easy to disengage – or tune out – especially if you’ve chosen a career path or degree that’s not quite right for you. However, if you can act on your innate strengths (see point 1) and then hone your ability to focus on what you’re doing at any given moment, you’ll create good energy. The more you stay engaged and focused, the more good energy you will generate. This will attract people to you – and importantly – capture the attention of the right people. Of course, this will all lead to a greater sense of career fulfilment for you.

5. Network, network, network

The average time an employee spends in the workplace is 3.3 years. By the time they retire at age 75, they will have had 17 different employers.7 Whether you want to move from job to job, move up in the same company, or become an entrepreneur and manage your own team, networking and people skills are more important today than they have ever been. You can be the smartest kid on the block, but if you can’t work in a networked way, you won’t get far.

Of course to be able to network well, you need to be able to communicate well. This is something that is not a huge focus at universities and is compounded by the fact that, generally speaking, students have a tendency to stick to their cliques and interact with the same people.

Think about the majority of your university assignments and you’ll see that you are being encouraged to build skills individually. But in the workplace, we don’t work alone. So you shouldn’t build your skills alone – build them with others. Do what you can to connect with people outside of your inner circle and hone those soft skills that remain so important for the jobs of today and the future.

Graduating job ready is not something students can do on their own – they need and deserve the support of the wider community. In Employability Matters Part Two, I will discuss and explore the roles that universities and businesses have to play.

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Resources

1 http://theconversation.com/factcheck-qanda-does-it-take-4-7-years-for-young-graduates-to-find-employment-in-australia-56916

2 http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_ASEAN_HumanCapitalOutlook.pdf

https://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2012/10/04/top-five-personality-traits-employers-hire-most/#4c56b129eec3

https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/Media-and-Events/media-releases/Education-enhances-employability-in-a-changing-economy--new-report#.WYOicNOGNhA

https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Engaging-students-creating-classrooms-that-improve-learning.pdf

https://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2015/02/02/6-things-wise-leaders-do-to-engage-their-employees/#5e1e154b7f5d

7 http://mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/job-mobility-in-australia


Simone Wright

Simone Wright is the Vice President of Human Resource for Pearson Asia Pacific.


She has been setting human resource strategy and development for more than 20 years.


Simone has interviewed and hired more people than she cares to admit, from interns to CEOs, and knows what managers are looking for in a candidate.


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