By Elyse Popplewell
In conversation with Careers Consultant Claudia Cowell, we look into how the time you spend at university can be maximised to get you job-ready. Through Claudia’s experience in working with students in a one-on-one capacity, and liaising with recruiters, she makes the point that the university’s curriculum is something you can leverage to become industry ready.
How competitive is the workforce at entry-level these days?
It is very competitive; students need to have more than their degree and good marks. Employers are really looking for students who have developed a wide range of skills through all kinds of voluntary or paid work experience and co-curricular activities. Students who can show their passion for the industry and the role are the best candidates.
What is the feedback from employers when it comes to where students are lacking in their experience and knowledge?
According to the 2018 Australian Association of Graduate Employers Survey, they have identified that through the recruitment process, students are lacking an understanding of the organisation they apply for. Students need to research the organisation, they need to see if their values, their interests, their strengths and their skills all align with the motivations and outcomes of the organisation they are applying with.
A skill that was identified as lacking was self-management. This is a student being able to take initiative where they need to, and also is able to organise and manage their workload and their priorities. Recruiters are really looking for students who can be independent. But it is really about taking that initiative in the workforce, showing you have a role to play.
The other skills that recruiters identify as lacking are problem solving, non-verbal communication, and initiative. So, these skills are all buildable in different parts of a student’s curriculum.
When it comes to assessments, how can students make the most of their studies to make them job-ready?
It’s about really participating in work integrated learning subjects. Some of these will be integrated into the degree’s core program, but otherwise it’s researching the subjects they could choose as electives, and choosing ones with authentic assessments involved in them. This helps students build their skills and capacity during university. Also, reaching out for different opportunities like internships. Picking Professional Internship as an elective, or doing it voluntary outside of university is great. We suggest that students try to link it to their degree. Outside of curriculum, it goes into the co-curriculum opportunities, like the SOUL Award, BUiLD, going on exchange, joining clubs and societies – all of that! Trying to build up as many experiences as they can gives students the best chance possible at securing a well-suited job after graduating.
How important is it that assessments are authentic, as in, they mirror real world professional scenarios?
Authentic assessments are really important. Authentic assessments allow the students to apply the knowledge, skills, and theory learnt in the course and apply it to a real world setting. They’re gaining insights into responsibilities and roles, as well as the industry they might aspire to be a part of one day. So, they’re gaining industry relevant skills, knowledge, and experience. This makes students more employable, but it also starts to set expectations for the student about what their professional life might entail once they graduate. It’s about being prepared and upskilled.
Then, the student can assess their skills, their strengths, interests, and values, and decide whether they align with the sort of work they imagined they would have once they graduate. It is important for students to visualise themselves in a professional role and ask themselves: “Do I want to be this person, in this kind of role, in two, five, or ten years time?” The authentic assessments allow the students to get a taster of what life might be like outside in the real world. Students can assess whether their vision aligns with that taster.
The Journalism Major in the Communications Bachelor, for example, has a viva voce at the end of the capstone subject, Industry Portfolio, where students pitch themselves and their stories to a panel of prospective editors. You have to be able to talk the talk, as well as walk the walk, and that’s a skill!
What does an ideal candidate applying for a job straight out of uni look like?
That’s a good question! An ideal candidate would have a relevant degree to the role they’re applying for in the industry they’re aligned to. The candidates would have completed paid or unpaid relevant work or voluntary experience, and involved themselves in co-curricular activities like societies and clubs, especially if they’re aligned with the industry that they’re hoping to join. They will show they are a well-rounded candidate through participating in sports teams, or other initiatives at university. They will be able to market themselves well, with a good set of job application skills, and this takes time and practice, so accessing UTS Careers is important to build that skill set.
The other important thing is for students to really look at their digital literacy and their grasp of technology, because that is where the workforce is going. Universities are a great place to hone in on your digital literacy skills and applying them in the workforce. Because sometimes, universities are actually ahead of what is out there in the workforce.
Having all of this experience and knowledge is one thing, but how do students best showcase it to employers?
We see students every single day who have a wealth of knowledge and experience but how they market themselves is often their downfall. So UTS Careers tries to really help students with their personal branding and how they can show off (pitch) their core skills and strengths, and then market themselves to employers. I would say these job application skills like building your resume, your cover letter and your interviewing skills – that all involves a technical skillset that we can provide here at UTS Careers. And it takes practice! Students need to be aware of that. They’re probably not going to get the first job they go for.
When they’re marketing their skills, employers are looking for people with well-developed transferable skillsets, such as communication skills (written and verbal), interpersonal skills, teamwork, motivational fit, problem solving skills, and analytical skills. The only way you can showcase them is by providing evidence through articulating how you built them in all facets of your university and working life thus far. So my advice would to be to get amongst university life, grab every opportunity with two hands and build your skills and your networks to make the transition into the workforce an easier one.
Find out more about how UTS uses authentic assessments at: http://newsroom.uts.edu.au/news/2018/08/when-uni-meets-real-world
Elyse is a final year Journalism student at UTS.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.