Identifying your transferable skills

You might think that a lack of relevant experience may stop you from getting a job, but this isn’t always the case. Employers are often looking for potential and you can demonstrate this by highlighting the skills you’ve developed from school, university, part-time work and any other area of your personal life.

transferable skill is a skill learned, or developed, in one place (job, study, volunteering, student society, community) which can be used in – transferred to – another place. Some common examples are:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Working to deadlines

How do you gain these skills?

It’s likely you’ll have some already! We’ve given a few ideas below of activities which you could use as great examples to demonstrate your skills and apply them to your job applications. Continue reading

How temping in the Public/Health sector helped me get a career in HR

Whilst studying at university I decided to join the administration bank of my local hospital back home. I worked in a number of different departments (some more interesting than others): auditing and medical records, operating theatre, mental health surgery, X-ray department and MRI & CT scanning department. Here’s why it’s the best thing I ever did:

  1. It helped me develop people skills

During my time in the hospital I had to deal with every different type of person there is from the visually impaired, to the disabled, the rich, poor, young or old. Everyone at some point will need to use the NHS. This made me realise I wanted to work with people in the future; they make life interesting and you can never predict what they are going to do next. Yes I did realise this halfway through my science data related degree…but a girl can change her mind right?

  1. I gained transferable administration skills

Working on X-ray reception desk you had to answer the phone (develop telephone manner), serve patients (customer service) and write letters to GPs (improve typing skills). All of these things are transferable skills that I was able to put on my CV after completing the placement. Ok so at the time I didn’t see the point in “weeding out” old medical and X-ray records that were covered in dust but this gave me skills such as using different software systems, attention to detail and data entry. It also helped motivate me to find a career that I didn’t find “boring”.

  1. Improved communication skills and confidence

From speaking face-to-face and on the phone, to writing to senior consultants, junior doctors, radiographers, nurses, secretaries, patients and GPs, I developed my communication skills by adapting my language and tone depending on who I was speaking/writing to. It also helped me gain confidence and realise I was happy talking to anyone and increased my ability to build relationships, which is definitely helpful in HR.

  1. Dealing with stress/emergency situations

If you can deal with a patient fainting or going into cardiac arrest you can pretty much deal with anything. Experiencing these situations taught me to stay calm and not to panic; you can’t do these things when human life is in danger (not saying I resuscitated anyone or anything but I did make sure the right help was on its way and fast).

  1. Other points to consider

This “holiday job” was more interesting than working in a shop for example, also I was able to draw on all of this experience when I got an interview as an HR coordinator for my first permanent job. It also gives you a lot of stories (I am still sorry I once took the wrong person from the ward for their operation and got them all worked up for nothing…) and back in 2008, compared to positions my friends had, it paid a lot better than retail, hospitality etc. which was particularly helpful in funding the travelling I did after university.

Want to know more?

About admin banks: NHS Barts health have an administration bank from time to time they advertise a rolling job advert on: www.jobs.nhs.uk

About how to put transferable skills on your CV: Please book an appointment using our website: www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/book/.

Why is work experience important?

Experience and employability skills clearly evidenced on a CV are the crucial factors that enable students to successfully navigate the competitive graduate job market which is set to expand by 11.9% this year, according to a recent report issued by the Association of Graduate Recruiters.

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the AGR, explains: “Graduate vacancies continue to grow year on year and graduates are still more likely to be employed than non-graduates. Employers would have recruited more graduates, over 1,400 more, if they could have found enough candidates with the right mix of skills. Candidates that understand the world of work, build their own skills and can translate that into a compelling proposition are much more likely to be successful in the jobs market.”

This is exactly why work experience is so important. Whether you are a first, second or third year student at university, Careers & Enterprise advises students to take part in a range of work experiences, internships or placements that are specifically designed by employers to help students achieve the following objectives:

Gain transferable skills

Even if your work experience or internship does not focus on a particular career path, it will help to develop key employability skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving skills that you will need in almost any job. Plus you will gain invaluable general understanding of life beyond academic study and will be able to demonstrate a responsible attitude to work on your CV and in interviews.

Build a network

Work experience and internships offer the perfect opportunity to make contacts in an industry you might be interested in. This is a unique opportunity to network with companies and individuals who might be interested in employing you after graduation. More than a quarter (26.5%) of graduate roles in 2013/14 were filled by individuals who had previously worked for the same employer, through an internship or placement.

Get a taster

The only way to truly know if a job is right for you is to experience it hands-on. Whether it’s an industry, role or company you’re seeking to discover more about, work experience or internships provide an insight that will help you to make the right decision about your career. Your placement will highlight which skills you have and which will need more work if you’re planning on pursuing this career.

Use your time at university to build a CV with a range of internships and work experiences. On  Graduation Day you will not only be celebrating your degree results, but the fact that you have the vital employability skills to help you succeed in an expanding but highly competitive graduate job market,

To browse the various work experience, internship and employment opportunities targeted at Queen Mary students visit QRecruit and QM JobOnline.

Work experience on CVs – how to sell it and make it relevant to the employer

I see a whole range of experience on CVs. Sometimes people have already done exactly the sort of job they are applying for, which is an enviable – and very unusual – position at this stage of life. Other times people are searching for something to say about a McDonald’s job they had three years ago. If you are in the second group, there are a couple of ways to go about solving this problem.

The other day I read a CV and didn’t even notice at first that the applicant had had no formal employment and this was because the CV covered all the skills necessary for the job, with clear achievements and evidence. Through his work with a relevant university society he had showed motivation, leadership, and communication skills. From relevant project work on his course he had developed project management abilities as well as demonstrating problem-solving skills and both written and oral communication. At school he had held positions of responsibility that had involved him organising an event and attending meetings with school managers. And in his spare time he was reading relevant magazines and attending networking events. These activities were listed under ‘Experience’, ‘Positions of responsibility’ and ‘Interests’.

So, as you can see, work experience doesn’t have to be formal, paid employment. You can gain and demonstrate valuable skills as part of your course, through getting involved in university activities and societies, and through getting involved in your community. You can then use your CV to highlight these skills and convince employers that you have experience of communicating, organising, persuading, and problem solving – and much more.

Of course, formal jobs can also provide you with these skills – even a part-time job at McDonald’s can be effective on a CV if you highlight relevant skills that it gave you. For example, if the job you are applying for suggests that they need someone who can deal with clients, you can write about how at McDonald’s you communicated with customers in a polite and friendly manner. If the job requires sales skills or persuasion, perhaps you were successful in up-selling (persuading customers to buy additional items). You might also have team-working skills to offer, and have experience working under pressure – both of which would be useful to any high-paced office working environment.

If you still feel that your CV is looking a bit thin and you want to add to your experience of formal jobs, you might want to think about applying for jobs on campus, or internships. See careers.qmul.ac.uk/jobs for a range of opportunities.

Ultimately, employers will want to see evidence of work experience and skills on your CV. So gaining a combination of skills through extra-curricular activities or volunteering, and some experience of a commercial workplace or responsibility within an organisation will really help you present yourself to future employers.

Ways to make the most of your summer if you don’t have a job

Tempting as it is to lie in the back garden (or possibly not given the recent weather in London!), there are plenty of ways to make the most of next few weeks, if you don’t have a job lined up.

1. Volunteer. There will be plenty of opportunities across London and in your local area – a good place to start is http://www.do-it.org.uk/ and don’t forget QMSU Volunteering have opportunities for this coming summer, including Bow Foodbank and Oxfam among others.

2. Pick up some work experience: ask around to see if you can wheedle some work experience. Your filing and tea making capacities might be tested to the limit, but grit your teeth and get on with it.  It ain’t what you do, it’s what you learn and observe on the way that counts.

4. Study: Local universities and colleges will be offering summer courses galore, so how about working on your web skills, embracing entrepreneurship or learning another lingo?

5. CV: dig out that dog-eared document and update and upgrade it.  If not now, when?

6. (Optional): Polish your halo.

Gill Sharp
Careers Consultant
QM Careers

‘Doing More with Less’ – how to appeal to employers

A report in The Times* newspaper this week describes how “Doing more with less has become today’s business mantra.”

What might this mean for undergraduates and graduates seeking work?

Here are three ways to help employers understand how you can enable them to do more with less…

1. Fresh thinking – demonstrate how you can bring creative approaches and new ways of doing things. As one consultant quoted in The Times commented ‘You have to out-think, rather than outspend the competition’. Draw on examples of things you have done while at Queen Mary. Your use of Facebook to increase membership numbers of the Scuba Club, could be a model for a business using social media to engage with a wider customer base.

2. Focus – show that you know what really matters. Doing more with less requires working to clear goals and concentrating on areas where you can make a difference. Do your research on any potential employer. Have a view on what really matters for the success of their business. Prepare evidence of times when you have achieved goals as a student using limited resources. For example, did you complete several pieces of coursework at the same time as holding down a part-time job?

3. Affiliation – describe how you work with others to deliver results. The Times feature also describes how businesses are working together in collaborative partnerships to do more with less. It cites the work of Divine (the Fairtrade chocolate) with O2. Share relevant examples from course projects and work experience to show employers how you can work in partnership with others to make great things happen.

*The Times feature is based on a report by Raconteur. This can be accessed here.

Competency questions – what are they really asking?

Sometimes when faced with a competency question (on an application form or at interview) it isn’t always immediately obvious what it is they are looking for.  Taking the time to work this out is important, as you will be able to focus your answer and give examples that provide evidence of the skills they are looking for.

So how to do this?
Ask yourself: What is the question getting at? What is it designed to find out about me?

Practice makes perfect. Here are some examples of questions along with their underlying meaning and topics you could cover in your answer (depending on the situation and job role):

Can you give me an example of when you’ve had to change someone’s opinion on an issue?

  • underlying meaning = persuasive communication

In your answer you could give an example of a time when you demonstrated the ability to influence and persuade. You could also mention things like effective communication, the ability to adapt your communication style to your audience for best effect, or being considerate of other viewpoints yet confident in your own.

Can you give me an example of when you persisted with something even though you were beginning to lose hope of success?

  • underlying meaning = achievement of goals

In your example you could mention your ability to create well-defined goals and responsd well to pressure.  Other ideas:  having the persistence and energy require to meet or exceed your objectives,  demonstrating resilience, or possessing the ability to look at things from different angles.

What do you think will be the most important issue/s facing this sector in the next five years?

  • underlying meaning = commercial awareness

Show you have an interest in business and knowledge of how an organisation operates, particularly in your chosen field.  An obvious way to do this is to show that you keep up with news in general and with your own industry area in particular.  You could also demonstrate that you are aware of the ways external factors such as government legislation, new technology, war, extreme weather conditions, or global issues can affect the operation of an organisation.

Tell me about a time when you completed a task without all the resources that you would have ideally needed.

  • underlying meaning = adaptability

Your example will give evidence that you are able to adapt to a situation which is not ideal and still produce an effective outcome.  Within this you could highlight having a flexible approach, the ability to think creatively, staying positive in difficult circumstances or being resourceful in responding to major changes.

Can you give me an example of a situation in which you have had to analyse complex information in order to make a decision?  How did you approach it?

  • underlying meaning = problem solving

This could entail your ability to analyse and solve practical problems and evaluate tasks or situations in a logical manner. You could mention being able to generate new ideas, think creatively, or bring different elements of a problem together and formulate an effective solution.

How do you determine priorities in scheduling your time?  Give some examples.

  • underlying meaning = organisation and planning

Show you take responsibility for the completion of tasks and ensure that detail is not overlooked when involved in a project.  You could highlight times when you have used your time management skills, prioritised tasks effectively, and / or  managed multiple tasks.  You could include that you understand the need, on occasion, for re-prioritisation if the unexpected happens.