Job market

How your degree can boost your employability

We spend a lot of time promoting the benefits of work experience and extra-curricular activities as a way of developing skills that will make you more appealing to graduate recruiters. However, it’s easy to overlook the fact that your degree is responsible for making a substantial contribution to your chances of securing a good graduate job.

By engaging in academic study – regardless of discipline – you will develop a range of skills which are valued in the workplace.

Will Hart, Physics Undergraduate, who interned with RWE npower over the summer:

“I guess the main way that my degree has helped me is in developing an analytical approach to any tasks that I am given; is there a quicker way to do this, or what could I do to make this better?

A more direct skill that I gained from my degree was the ability to present (although the energy challenge helped more) and how to write a document that is suitable for publication.

A slightly more indirect attribute is that doing such a difficult degree has helped me to genuinely believe that, cliché as it sounds, I can achieve anything that I set my mind to”.

From the graduate recruiter’s perspective, Kerry Riley adds:

“At RWE npower students who are able to expand on the employability skills that they have learnt at University of Warwick and use them to successfully compete in one of our competitions, are exactly the pro-active, dynamic type that we want to join our graduate scheme”.

No matter how far-removed some degree subjects such as Classics, Philosophy or History of Art might appear to be from the world of graduate recruitment, you might be surprised by the skills you are developing – whether consciously or unconsciously – that recruiters actively look for evidence of in job applications and at interview. Anecdotally, one of our biggest graduate recruiters – a large investment bank – told us they actively seek Classics students/graduates. It’s just that so few really apply.

As a Philosophy student you will, for example, learn how to work autonomously, develop a flexible mind and manage change. Recruiters will value your ability to work flexibly in a rapidly changing workplace where you will require minimum supervision.

Psychologists develop quantitative research skills, which are valued highly by recruiters and applicable in a wide variety of roles. Yes, you may decide to pursue the vocational route and work towards chartership, but the point is you don’t have to.

As a Sociology student you begin to appreciate the complexity and diversity of social situations, a skill which will enable you to quickly read situations and respond appropriately – valuable in any environment which is focused on the needs of service users. And considering how service-based UK industry has become, this will stand you in good stead.

As Roger Fagge, Head of Department for the School of American Studies illustrates:

The BA gives a students a multidisciplinary understanding of the Americas, and in the process develops research, writing and oral skills (both in discussions and presentations); the ability to work independently, as well as within a team, Spanish language skills and the experience of living and studying abroad.”

Having the opportunity to develop these skills will help you develop confidence in giving presentations at assessment centres and enable you demonstrate your intercultural communication skills, which are increasingly sought by global recruiters.

It’s important to recognise the range of skills you will develop, sometimes without even realising it. Once you have learnt how to ‘think like a Sociologist’ this approach will be one you take for granted, even though it is a skill which can distinguish you from other applicants.  Laura Firmin, a recent Sociology graduate, demonstrates how she successfully secured a summer internship with the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology with this supporting evidence:

“Amongst skills in writing and research, Sociology taught me to question the normal and to think differently.  I have developed a pretty quick-fire approach to spotting and preventing problems from these skills, as well as the ability to think creatively about products and processes.  With the help of the Warwick Careers department, I have turned the skills gained from three years of academic thinking, into the skills that business needs.  Overall, the best bit about studying Sociology is that once you have gained a sociological imagination, you will not lose it. It is a mind-set, and one that is immeasurably valuable in an increasingly diverse and global society”.

Did you know that over 70% of Warwick recruiters do not require a specific degree for their graduate jobs, which means that most career options are open to graduates of any discipline.

“Last year, almost half of the graduates who joined us came from an arts and humanities, science, law or social sciences degree subject”. Roz Lawrence, PwC

If you need further evidence of the broad range of careers that graduates progress to, take a look at the destinations of Warwick graduates from your subject discipline through our GEMS (Graduate Employment Market Statistics) database.

In summary, your approach to making the most of your transferable skills is threefold:

  1. Identify the skills you are developing through your degree
  2. Highlight those the recruiter is looking for in order to match your skills to their requirements
  3. Personalise and ‘market’ your skills by qualifying with examples

And don’t forget, there will be plenty of opportunity to hear from graduate recruiters and alumni themselves during our packed autumn schedule of fairs and events. Come along and find out just how employable you are!

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