The competition for graduate jobs in the UK today is fierce. It is not uncommon to hear of hundreds of people applying for just one position. So, for graduates, making themselves stand out from the crowd is vital. Education is of course very important, and there is a lot to be said for qualifications such as an MSc in Management as they provide a solid foundation for developing knowledge of the working environment. However, employers today aren’t just looking for people with great qualifications, what they really want is experience and that is something you cannot learn in a lecture hall. In fact, recent research from YouGov found that more than half of employers don’t think graduates come out of university equipped for work. Graduates looking to extend their skills beyond education should seek out other opportunities that will give them an edge over the competition. Showing participation in activities outside of academia can also demonstrate skills that are useful in the working world. For example, most university activities are run by students for students, so if a graduate has been a committee member of a sports team or started up a society, they will have shown organisational and leadership qualities. What employers need to see more of are skills that have been developed both at university and during placements or work experience, ideally put into the context of the workplace. Graduates need to be able to demonstrate that they are a team player but also have the ability to lead and delegate to others and take on responsibility, as well as showing that they’ve successfully managed workloads and projects within set time limits. Furthermore, being able to demonstrate commercial awareness on top of these core skills is really valuable. Showing understanding of the need for efficiency, cost effectiveness and current marketplace – whatever career a graduate is aiming to go into – will create a well-rounded, competitive individual that can offer much more than simply good grades. This is where businesses can get involved, after all, if we are not willing to offer placements and internships then how can young people gain the real life work experience that will make them more attractive to employers? At SAP we are taking steps to help the workforce of the future gain the specific skills they need to enter the modern work environment through our University Alliances Programme and Academy Cube initiative. These services have been designed to provide students and graduates with a well-rounded and informed experience so that they can enter the workforce with the skills that employers are looking for. Don’t forget, it’s important to think about what you’re offering the workforce of the future in order to attract the best talent. As Generation Z graduate into the working world, they will be looking for organisations who fulfil their expectations. There are companies who are already making an effort to achieve this and are deemed cool places to work, from Google to Facebook, so it’s important to keep up. Putting simple changes in place like relaxing dress codes and having ‘bring your own device’ policies can go a long way to modernising a business and making it an aspirational place to work. In the long run offering opportunities like work experience, industrial placements and university engagement programmes will benefit businesses, as the crop of candidates available will become more equipped with a range of skills. Focusing on what your organisation can offer will also become more important as competition for the best talent intensifies – start thinking about it now, or risk getting outpaced by your competitors! Martin Gollogly is director for the University Alliances program for SAP UK, Ireland, Benelux.
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