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Employability - skills employers look for in graduates

As your child begins to ponder and take steps towards their future career, it’s only natural to want to guide them through it. Although you can’t sit in on their university classes, there are skills they’ll need in the workforce that aren’t taught in a lecture or tutorial, but instead, are learned from the ebbs and flows of regular life – skills you can help engender in them throughout school, university and beyond.  

Employers are increasingly focused on soft skills, to the point where these almost outweigh their ‘hard’ counterparts (i.e., the technical and theoretical requirements of a specific role or career path). From time management to decision-making, initiative and more, these are the things that can set candidates apart in a highly competitive career landscape.  

Here are five skills employers look for in graduates, regardless of their industry or area of expertise.  

Time management 

Employers want to know that whoever they hire, be it your child or another candidate, can effectively ‘budget’ their time throughout the workday. This skill will be relevant throughout their career, whether they’re an assistant or a manager of a huge team.  

Thankfully, school and university inherently encourage time management through assignments, exams and other deadlines. If this is something your child struggles with, consider implementing time blocking (a process where they intentionally block out hours in the day for different activities) or finding a time management system that works with their unique personality and needs.  

Initiative and proactiveness 

 Your child’s ability to take initiative, be proactive and roll with the punches will do wonders for their reputation in a first job, and will build their confidence as an employee as well. Employers want graduates who can execute tasks independently and make well-informed decisions without having to be monitored at every second – so let go of their hand and encourage them to trust themselves.  

Willingness to learn 

No matter how well university prepares them, they won’t know how to do everything required of them in their first job – this is both inevitable and nothing to worry about! What employers do hold in high regard, though, is a willingness to learn. Is your child ready to get stuck in and take notes on how they can improve? What about putting in the time to perfect new skills? These attributes will serve them well in the workplace.  

Problem solving skills  

In the modern workplace, there are fires to put out and problems to solve on any given day. Your child’s ability to efficiently and productively weigh up a situation, make decisions and execute them will make them a favourable candidate to potential employers, no matter the industry. You might not realise it, but this skill presents itself in daily life. How do they react when things don’t go their way, and it’s up to them to fix it? Do they sink or swim? This should give you an indication of where your child’s problem solving skills are at.  

Career goals and awareness 

Finally, their vision of what their career could look like – and the skills it will take to get there – doesn’t go unnoticed by future employers. Help them to identify their ideal career and how they’ll reach it, even if it’s just very top-level. Awareness of their strengths and weaknesses is also a fundamental part of getting hired in the current career landscape, as it will allow an employer to identify any gaps in their professional knowledge or manner that can be developed.  

Get a handle on these skills and your child’s employability as a graduate will climb. Even if they’re still a few years off finishing university, nurturing these skills in daily life could ultimately be the key to getting a leg up in the ever-changing career landscape. 

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