How to enhance employability through personal development.

Commissioned by Coventry University.


According to Universities UK, between 2018 and 2019 there were 2.38 million students studying at UK universities; many of these individuals will have now graduated and be searching for a job. With so many prospective candidates entering the industry every year, employers are now looking beyond education and technical skills to evaluate experiences, attitude and personality when selecting suitable employees.

Erasmus Plus statistics state that between 2014 and 2018, there were only 167,000 UK participants in the Erasmus programme. The exchange scheme – which provides funding for students to live aboard whilst studying or working for one year during their degree – is an incredible opportunity to enhance your personal skills, whilst partaking in a once in a lifetime experience. Based on my own Erasmus journey whilst living and studying in Madrid, I have composed a list of desirable personal skills and how these can be enhanced during your year aboard.

Confidence

Showcase your independence.

Many students start their university experience with cooking skills limited to beans on toast, having never used a washing machine nor visited the doctors without mum or dad. All students are likely to mature during university, however, those that travelled, lived and engaged with other cultures through the Erasmus programme particularly boast their enhanced confidence and independence.

It is common for participants of the Erasmus programme to travel beyond their host country; not only will this experience provide a great conversation starter during interviews, it will also demonstrate your openness and interest in the world around you – both of which are sought-after traits by employers.


Motivated

Ability to take the initiative.

Whilst on your year abroad, partake in extracurricular activities to show you have the get-up-and-go to pursue interests outside of the workplace. Not only will this demonstrate your communication skills – verbal or written dependent on the activity – employers are likely to be impressed by your time management as you balance study or work with these other commitments. Extracurricular activities could include:

· Joining societies and sports clubs.

· Contributing articles or reviews to publications based on topics of interest.

· Creating a blog about your Erasmus experience.

· Starting a social enterprise.

· Enhancing your creative skills and sharing your artwork online.


Active Learner Engage with the community, culture and people.

It is essential to explore your surroundings whilst living abroad; learn the native language, visit galleries, museums and monuments, volunteer at a local organisation, try different cuisines and embrace the diversity offered by your host country. By engaging with what is around you, it is likely you will develop your network of friends and professionals along the way. With an enhanced cultural awareness and network of people, you will show employers you are a keen learner with an active mind as well as being a team player; desirable traits in any industry.

Commercial Awareness Develop your industry-based knowledge.

Through entering competitions, writing reviews and articles and completing your own research projects within your industry, employers will notice your genuine curiosity and interest in your preferred occupation. This process is also a great way to discover a niche within your business sector; this specialised knowledge and awareness is sure to impress future employers. Finally, you will develop your ability to research, handle data, cross-reference information, write informatively, draw conclusions and problem solve – all of which are great skills to showcase on your CV.


Social Media know-how

We’re living in the digital age.

Social media acts as one of the largest marketing strategies within business, as well as being a great space for employers to discover more about their candidates. Therefore, it is beneficial to be active on your professional social media platforms, posting relevant and appropriate content to showcase your digital communication skills and understanding of an online presence. Alternatively, dedicate time to creating a professional website which documents your time abroad, this will demonstrate your active engagement with your surroundings as well as your web design skills.

It is important to remember that job applications are being read by real people, people who want to successfully integrate another individual into their team. Therefore, next time you are updating your CV or writing a cover letter, put a little more focus on you as an individual to truly showcase your personality, because ultimately, that is what will set you apart from other candidates.

Words and photographs by Kelly Bryan

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writer & visual artist