Ok so those of you that read this blog regularly will know by now that Employability is one of my main focus areas and a topic that can get me very pumped up...
The latest thing that caused me to get typing a(after thinking about the implications of what was said) was the following interaction with a parent of an A Level student..
I commented on the excellent predicted grades (A's and A*'s) that the student was possibly going to achieve and I then focused on the remainder of the CV passing comment on the inclusion of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme bronze award that had been achieved.
I asked why the student had decided to invest their time and energies into that process and was greeted with the reply 'Apparently uni's and graduate employers like to see that sort of thing...'
Well that's correct; yes they do but they like to see them for a reason and as an experienced graduate recruiter and careers coach myself that answer got me thinking about the crucial role of parents, how employability really works and whether we might have started to treat the process as a tick box exercise rather than respecting it as a genuine way to represent compencies, skills and experience beyond the academic.
The thing about Employability for me is that it can never be a tick box exercise because that simply defeats the object. It is not the doing of something that is important but instead it is the reasons for doing it and the skills and experience developed as a result of doing it that are important. I guess we need to ask whether we plan these things properly, whether we are trained and capable of reflective learning and also whether the whole concept of personal brand and employability is now being treated by parents and students as another hoop to jump through?
If you conciously decide to do something just because you think it looks good on your CV and because others do it without ever really grasping the reasons that explain why others do it or reflecting on what you have gained by doing it then you really might as well not bother. Why camp on the side of wet hillside in the driving rain and wind for a weekend before trekking 30 miles with only a kitkat and some water if you don't really embrace the whole experience for what it is worth to you?
Yes that parent was right (actually perhaps only half right) in that employers love to see that stuff on a CV; Duke of Edinburgh, sports, volunteering, work experience, artistic achievement and more but the reason they love to see it is because it means they can explore in interview what additional skills and attributes that the candidate has by using their experiences beyond the academic sphere; where let's face it results are increasingly similar. It allows the potential for genuine diffentiation and personal brand clarity which I know are both big issues in recruitment of inexperienced candidates...
So folks if you go down the path of putting stuff onto your CV that you think might be useful in persuading an employer that you are an outstanding candidate then you better be ready to prove it and walk the talk by showing them that you have thought about what exactly you gained from your experiences and what that means to them in terms of how it makes you a better candidate.
For example if you have completed any Duke of Edinburgh Award and you feature it on your CV then make sure that you have thought about what that experience has given you in terms of leadership, team work, project management, working to timescales, motivating others, planning etc etc - that is the stuff they want to hear, resulting in a fully connected and intelligent use of your experiences showing them what they want to see, which is your ability to do the job you are applying for. It is really that simple but only if you address the employability challenge in the right way and not just like a 'to do' list where you need to acquire things and where the acquisition is the end in itself because that I promise you will lead to failure.
So my advice to all you students (candidates) out there is that I am of course saying yes go and do lots of stuff, experience everything you have the time and budget to experience and get work experience whenever you can; but don't just do those things beacuse you think you should, instead you must do them because you want to develop, learn about yourself, experience new things and then on reflection understand why they have made you a more rounded appealing and able candidate.
And my advice to parents and schools as well I guess is that employability is a concept to be respected and embraced fully not to be treated like a superficial 'nice to have' list to be looked at after the important stuff (academic grades) it needs full and careful consideration so that the student you are advising gets the most from their efforts and converts effort and time into employable skills and attributes.
If you need to know more, need help in converting brilliant experiences into employability or help with informing school or Uni staff and students about this whole concept then let us know - happy to help!
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