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Employability skills

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Using a degree to change career

Using a degree to change career OU graduate Stephen McGann on the skills gained through study that have led to new career opportunities. 2 minutes 51 seconds

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.

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

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.

Employers look for students and graduates who can demonstrate their potential to:

  • manage and organise resources
  • make decisions
  • persuade and influence
  • manage change
  • meet challenges and overcome obstacles
  • display commercial awareness
  • develop their interpersonal skills
  • use analytical and problem solving skills
  • show a proactive approach to self development

The fact that I had a degree in English Literature must have helped. It also showed someone who was able to commit, able to go the distance, someone who didn’t mind working and someone who could put a sentence together!

OU student

Apart from subject-specific knowledge, employers stress the importance of transferable skills (sometimes called key skills or employability skills).

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

Employability Skills

The Employability skills activity helps you to identify what employability skills are and how they relate to OU study.

Student case studies

I honestly don’t think I would have had the impetus to make the On the Verge project happen if I hadn’t been studying with the OU at that time.

It was definitely the fact that I was studying the Environment that made me attractive to them as an organisation.

Without having done the studies in research, I wouldn’t understand what NES Research is doing never mind considering applying as a volunteer.

I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do this job without the OU study.

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