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Employability skills


Employability is about making connections between study, personal development and other activities in order to find, gain and be successful in your chosen career, and contribute to society. Developing a strong employability profile will make you much more employable and successful in your career.

At the OU we have defined employability as: ‘A set of capabilities and achievements that support students in developing their careers, raising their aspirations and enhancing their contribution to society.’

Employability skills are sometimes referred to as transferable skills and employers look for students and graduates who can demonstrate these skills.

Employability skills are composed of core skills and competencies, personal attributes and having an awareness of the labour market.

Core skills and competencies

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Numeracy
  • Digital and information literacy

Personal attributes and behaviours

  • Initiative
  • Self-management and resilience
  • Self-awareness

External awareness

  • Commercial and/or sector awareness
  • Global citizenship

What is going to make you more employable than somebody else? Things that are going to make you stand out, things that are going to differentiate you from other people. It may be a certain skill or aptitude you have or have demonstrated, where you've perhaps stretched yourself in certain ways and shown that you've really done the best you can with it.

Dave Gilchrist, Graduate Recruitment Co-ordinator, CGI

You can enhance your employability by being motivated and open to learning; developing your skills and knowledge; being more self-aware and reflective; and effectively being able to explain your skills and experience to others.

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Audit your employability skills - activity

A useful start would be to audit your employability skills now. Your Career Planning Guide includes an activity to audit your skills to help recognise what you can offer employers. You'll need to be signed in to access the booklet.

If you have a health condition or a disability, MyPlus Students Club have published an ebook, Embracing your strengths, to help you explore the additional strengths you have gained through managing a disability and how you can make your disability a ‘plus’ when applying to jobs.

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Develop your employability skills

Your employability skills can be developed in many ways including paid work, through your studies, work experience and volunteering. This may be particularly helpful if you’ve had a gap in your employment history for any reason.

OU Library’s Being digital can help you develop your digital and information literacy.

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Student story

Stephen McGann talks about how new transferable skills led to new opportunities


Stephen: But there's more direct things, the way that I've actually used my degree. It's given me confidence to take my degree and apply things I've learned elsewhere. Since I began my degree, I'm now doing something I would never have been able to do before; I now provide corporate training for the banking and capital market sectors.

I've exploited an opening up, you know, I saw a gap and I went for it and I've since worked overseas with some very august institutions providing a soft skill services like communication, team building.

Now some of them pull upon skills I gained in the arts but a lot of them need skills that directly I gained through my through my science degree. The course, one particular course I did gave me some very practical pointers to where I could get material to construct my workshops. But to do these forms of corporate training you have to devise your own curriculum in a sense. This is something I would never ever have had the ability to do before, before my degree. To have, and the key thing here is confidence, not only do you learn skills of organisation, so you can build a two day course in communication skills.

I was - I've been a performer all my life so I could get up on my feet and there's certain things I could do and public-speak the way maybe other people couldn't do, but that's only a tiny part of the journey. The way to actually form those structures, deliver to very intelligent people in a way that that is of use to them, was a skill way apart from the things I'd covered before. And my degree the reflective parts of my degree, the way the degree helped me to structure information was absolutely crucial. And so I didn't use my technological computing degree, well certainly not in all senses in my training services, in some small way I do. But mostly I used the secondary things that my degree taught me, which is the interface with human beings and complex systems and information.

And now my corporate training involves getting across complex information to intelligent but not necessarily fully informed people, which is part of what my degree has taught me, and so therefore, you see a way in which, and I was certainly a - it was a revelation to me, you see a way in which your degree has benefits you don't realise from the start, but then of course they are pretty directly related to the things that you've learned.

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Front cover of Your Career Planning Guide

Your Career Planning Guide

Deciding what you want to do with your career can feel like the start of an exciting journey, but it can also feel daunting if you're not sure where to start. Your Career Planning Guide is available to all students, you'll need to be signed in to access the guide.

Last updated 1 year ago