I recently ran an employability session at a secondary school. One of the themes of the day was about what students can do to make themselves more attractive to prospective employers.
Many of the students saw themselves as a trainee Superman or Superwoman – eventually capable of everything, knowing everything. They saw their time now at school and their future time at college or university as being a time for learning everything they needed – forever. And that somehow if they didn’t learn it now, they’d never do so.
Whenever I meet employers and ask them to identify the most important characteristics they’re looking for, three are consistently mentioned:
This came as a big surprise to many of the students, who thought they would be expected to know everything on Day 1. In fact, almost the opposite is true. Employers aren’t generally interested in what you know. They’re more interested in what you can learn; in how much you can absorb; in what you can cope with. Bright, enthusiastic and motivated students are most likely to be able to learn new skills, develop themselves and become better employees.
So whilst the certificates are important, employers are likely to favour students in whom they see evidence of those three key characteristics. Students who understand this, and who focus on demonstrating this are at a significant advantage over those who don’t.
Employers routinely talk of students, apprentices or trainees who fail to show any signs of interest in what they’re doing or learning; who aren’t motivated to improve themselves; who don’t even appear very bright. Despite having (perhaps) all the necessary certificates or exam passes, they are failing themselves.
Stand out! Give these employers what they’re looking for. They’re not expecting Superman or Superwoman. A bright, enthusiastic and motivated sponge is what they want. And that must be seen as pretty good news, because it isn’t difficult to do. At least not as difficult as swotting for years to pass exams and get some impressive certificates. A previous post gives examples of specific things students can do to help them stand out.
Feel free to comment on this post – I’d be interested to hear your views.
Inixiti – Improving graduate employability.