You may have heard it before; ‘if you want a job, you have to work on your employability.’ It’s a word that’s easily thrown around, but its true meaning can seem quite hard to grasp. So what does it really mean to be employable?
In short, employability is about possessing the skills, attributes and attitude that will help you to secure employment and thrive in the role. Here’s what you need:
Having the right ‘hard’ or technical skills and degree qualifications is important to get the job you want, but employers will also look for evidence of ‘soft’ or transferable skills. Also referred to as employability skills, these are skills that are useful in any job and include things like teamworking, leadership, communication, commercial awareness, organisation and problem solving. There are many ways in which you can build these skills, whether that’s through work experience, as part of your degree or via extra curriculum activities, and employers will want to see proof of them on your CV/resume or cover letter.
Being employable also means you display the right attitude: employers are looking for candidates that are enthusiastic, resourceful, willing to learn new skills and have a solid work ethic. Personality traits such as honesty, integrity and reliability are also high on their list. Again, it is crucial you let these attributes shine through in your application.
The more work experience you can get, the better. This includes everything from full and part-time roles to volunteering positions and internships. All of these experiences, whether they’re directly related to the profession or industry you want to work in or not, can help you build valuable transferable skills, gain insight into company practices and structures and build your professional network. As a result you’ll be better equipped to find work and thrive in your career, i.e. more employable.
Businesses are well aware that people work better when they are doing something they enjoy, so employing someone who has a true interest and affinity for the role is very important to them. Part of building your employability comes from investigating your strengths, i.e. what you’re naturally good at and enjoy, goals and motivations. Knowing this will help you pick out roles that are truly right for you and sell yourself to prospective employers.
How you present the above information to employers is also part of your employability, so it’s important that you know how to create a great CV, have practised your interview technique and spent time on your online presence.
So, how employable are you? Start thinking about what you can offer in terms of your skills and experience as well as your natural strengths and attributes. Your past experience can give you an idea of the key hard and soft skills you have acquired to date, while personality tests and friends and family are a great way to find out more about what you have to offer in terms of strengths and attributes.
Don’t forget that employability goes far beyond just getting a job. It’s what helps you keep the job and become successful doing it. Over time, your employability will grow and change and keeping track of this will help you get a clear idea of how your career is developing and help you figure out what’s next.