Applications / Interviews / Warwick

‘Strengthening’ your graduate employability

We recently ran a piece on how to crack Strengths-based interviews as an increasing number of high-profile employers are adopting a Strengths-based approach to graduate recruitment. But understanding more about the Strengths psychology can help you even before you submit that application. Laura Firmin, a Warwick Sociology graduate, explains in this post how she has personally benefitted from completing a Realise 2 Strengths profile and discussing her profile with a qualified practitioner.

That was then…

I first took the Realise2 Strengths profile as a student. Admittedly motivated by the opportunity to take the test for free, I completed the questionnaire and attended the workshop run by Student Careers and Skills. Having never seen or heard of Realise2, I was presented with words and colours that meant little to me at first. My interaction with the tool took me as far as noticing that some of my identified strengths were not described in ways I had expected. After the session I was offered a one to one explanation of my profile, which would have enabled me to look at it in greater depth but regrettably I didn’t follow up on this at the time.

What a difference a year makes

I took Realise2 a second time a couple of years later and this time I did attend a debriefing session with the Careers Consultant, a trained Strengths practitioner, where I had the chance to discuss in detail what my profile meant, how I could make the most of my strengths  and also  harness those strengths to minimise the impact of any weaknesses. It was also illuminating to find out more about learned behaviours and how easily these can be confused with strengths.

I discovered that I am not competitive with others. However, when combined with my strengths of paying attention to detail, writing and taking pride in my work, the Strengths Practitioner helped me to understand that I am, in fact, competitive with myself.  It’s just not labelled in the same way. For example, I write and re-write essays, reports, and emails until I am completely happy with the outcome. In effect, I have ‘beaten myself.’ By combining these strengths I no longer see being competitive as something negative. I have turned it into a positive aspect that helps me write to a standard I am satisfied with. I doubt that I would have come to such conclusions about the way strengths interplay without the personalised consultation. Although I don’t present as competitive in the traditional sense, the Strengths tool has allowed me to explore and understand this concept better, and how it applies to myself and others.

How can you use it?

A question that students often have about Realise2  is, “how can I relate this to solving the uncertainty of ‘what’s next?’”, and” how can I get ahead as a graduate?” Using Realise2 can help you describe your strengths and unique personal qualities in interviews as well as to demonstrating motivation in assessment centres. Your strengths may also provide indicators of the types of career you might like to pursue –  and the debrief will enable you to make sense of these options. It gives you a new language and frame of reference, that can really help you stand out and because it feels (and is!) authentic, the process is a more natural one. You’re not trying to fit a pre-conceived idea of the ‘ideal candidate’ or employee.

I’d like to return to the example of my weakness in being competitive and how that could have adversely affected my performance at an assessment day. I think there is a widely held belief that candidates need to be ruthlessly competitive with each other to succeed in assessment centres. Not true. Recruiters are looking to assess against a range of competencies; I don’t need to feel daunted at the prospect of ‘competing’  with other high calibre candidates. And what’s even better? Well, I can now draw on my strengths of pride and courage to excel in any task, thus proving my worth to a potential employer. I no longer feel shackled by the ‘fear’ of competition.

If you can use the language of strengths to confidently articulate the positive way in which your skills and energies are constantly evolving, then I’m sure – like me – you’ll feel the graduate job market opening up, with numerous possibilities. The world will soon become your oyster.

Looking ahead

I should tell you all that I am writing this not only as a Warwick graduate, but also as an intern for the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP)  – the company that designed and administers the Realise2 tool.  I applied for the position with CAPP through the   Warwick’s Graduate Internship Programme, because I felt (or should that be feel?) a natural affinity with  what they are doing with Strengths. With all bias aside I’m really glad I’ve had the opportunity – at Warwick and CAPP – to explore and understand the Strengths approach. It may just make all the difference to my future employability.
CAPP logo

Warwick students who are interested in completing a Realise 2 Strengths profile can do so by attending one of our central workshops which take place each term – check myAdvantage for details. One to one debriefing sessions are offered to all students completing a profile by our team of qualified Realise 2 Strengths practitioners.


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