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Your skills and qualities: Employability skills and OU study

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Developing a strong employability profile will make you much more employable and successful in your career. 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.

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

Use the employability skills activity to help identify how your study activities relate to the skills employers want.

Value of OU study

A marketable asset How does an OU qualification deliver added value for employers? 1 min 07 sec

Paul: The Open University qualification is a real qualification that means an awful lot to potential employers.

Rachael: Because you've got to be very motivated to be able to come home after a day's work and then be able to pick the books up and start studying.

Ramesh: My job usually demands more than eight hours work every day, sometimes it goes between ten to fourteen hours and with that kind of a workload, I think only Open University gives me this option of studying at my free time.

Rachael: I'm studying the courses I want to study. When I want to study them. How I want to study them. And for me that means that I'm more dedicated to the subjects that I'm studying, because it's my choice to go there, and it's my choice how I develop myself further within my career.

Paul: If you've got somebody who's in their 30's or 40's or in my case 50's, or even older, they have had the ability to knuckle down and actually do this particular study. It's a prized qualification and I would argue with anybody who says it's not.

The benefits of reflective thinking By reflecting on your learning, you grow more adaptable, argues OU graduate Stephen McGann. 1 min 12 sec

Stephen: A university gives you the way to think, the organisation of thoughts, but the key thing is it gives you a way to reflect upon yourself that enables you to change course; that enables you to take upon new sets of information, to be able to actually deconstruct new sets of information in a fruitful way to actually organise yourself to then solve other problems in other parts of the world.

That is by nature a clever thing to do. And so what he actually meant was more it teaches you how to be a smart Alec. No, it teaches you the actual mechanisms of what people might regard as clever, but actually they lie underneath this: there's a way and the way is actually very self reflective.

You've got to keep, you know, might some people might take it to the nth degree and say, you know, it's a kind of what would you call it, practical humility. What you can do is you're actually looking at yourself from the outside all the time, never taking yourself for granted, being able to move around, to be able to taking new information in, which is a key skill.

OU study can help you to

  • move into a new career
  • gain the qualifications needed for promotion
  • fill gaps in your professional knowledge
  • increase your confidence and demonstrate desirable work-related skills.

OU students are valued by employers

For

  • keeping their academic and professional skills up to date
  • having the dedication, commitment and ambition to study as well as work
  • their skills in effective time management
  • their ability to learn and work independently.

My application was definitely seen in a better light for having an OU qualification. 10 years ago they might not have been so interested but attitudes have changed. I expected the three person panel who interviewed me to not view my OU degree as favourably as an Oxbridge one, but this was definitely not the case.

OU student

See how these OU Alumni have progressed in their careers following OU study.

Degree classification

The titles BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BSc (Bachelor of Sciences) reflect the content of the modules that make up your degree. Where the balance is even, you will be asked to choose the title you prefer.

What are your reasons for studying?

Career reasons

You should research the career area you have in mind. In most cases employers do not have a preference, however if there are specific knowledge or technical requirements for the role you are aiming for, you could find that a BSc is expected. In any job application, you will need to provide evidence of your suitability for the role from your studies and other life experiences.

Career or professional development

You can find professional bodies for your sector on the TotalProfessions website, which lists over 270 UK professional associations. Check your OU qualification website for information on professional recognition for your OU qualification.

Personal aims

For example, you might want to prove something to yourself, to widen your experience, or to become better informed. Studying with the OU can give you a fresh challenge, or help you to build on your knowledge.

OU students… are evidently keen to develop themselves and are managing to do this while juggling a busy work or home life, which is no mean feat.

Emma Beadle, Unilever

If you want to know what other students have said about studying with the OU, read some course (module) reviews.

OU study skills learning outcomes

OU study is a springboard for developing a range of skills to attract future employers.

The learning outcomes given for each module or qualification that can be found on www.open.ac.uk/courses help identify key intellectual, practical and professional skills you should gain. Categorise these learning outcomes into four groups to help match them to particular skills.

  • Knowledge and understanding: Gaining specific knowledge related to a particular subject, for example historical or scientific data
  • Cognitive skills: Thinking skills, such as problem solving, analysis, research
  • Practical and professional skills: Skills related to a vocational area, such as web design or lesson planning
  • Key skills (transferable skills): Skills gained as a result of study, such as communication skills and time management

Dividing learning outcomes into categories makes them more manageable to deal with, but in reality they tend to overlap.

Listen to Ellen from the OU Careers and Employability Services who talks about developing skills through study.

  • Skills and OU Study
  • Ellen (OU Careers and Employability Services Team): The skills that you develop from OU study are useful in a wide variety of different contexts. We know that 70% of our students are studying with us to develop their career or to change their career.

    And there's a whole variety of skills that you can develop from studying with us, whatever subject you're studying and that includes motivation, initiative, being able to work by yourself and all of these these different skills are highly attractive to employers.

    So we do know that there are lots of opportunities out there that OU students can look at once they've been studying with us.

    It's really important to reflect on how your skills are developing as you're doing your OU study. Quite often students will very much underestimate what they have been developing as a result of their study. And once they do go through the process of thinking about what they've done and the different activities they've been involved in, it actually raises your motivation and your confidence in your abilities. That's a really important thing, when you're marketing yourself to employers. If an employer realises that you're the kind of person who is very self aware and who is able to look at your strengths and weaknesses and change and adapt as a result of doing that, then you'll be a very strong candidate when it comes to the labour market.

    To develop the skills that employers might be interested in whilst you're doing your OU study, you have all kinds of different opportunities, whether you go to residential school, where you might be doing experiments, or actively working on projects with other students, maybe even doing presentations. All of those sorts of things will help you to develop valuable skills. But also when you're online talking within many of the forums that we have within the OU, with other students both informally and also as part of your course, you'll find that that does help to develop your skills. In addition to that, going along to tutorials and discussing topics with your tutor and with other students, will help to improve your communication skills.

    Of course, all the skills that you develop when you're studying with the OU, will spill over into the rest of your life. So you may find that having gained confidence in developing these skills, that you develop additional outside interests or gather more confidence to try new things.

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