In an increasingly competitive job market, graduates need to stand out and to convince potential employers that they offer something above and beyond the norm. This might seem difficult when your CV lacks depth of experience but there are proven ways of upping your market value.
Firstly it is also important to adopt the correct mindset. “Think of yourself as a product that needs to be continually upgraded,” says Sarah Hernon, principal consultant at talent and career management consultancy, Right Management. “Adopt a proactive structured approach. A clear understanding of your key strengths and potential development needs will help to improve the planning of your approach. Show a potential employer self-awareness and demonstrate with examples what you bring to the party.”
Ready for anything
Real value lies in offering employers exactly what they want, and more. Make sure you understand the demands of the market or sector you are targeting. Research companies and job roles in your sector to learn what are the major challenges and skills that are in high demand. What technical, industry and other qualifications are employers looking for? Make full use of available resources such as corporate websites, job boards, broadsheets, industry magazines, trade bodies to build a complete picture of what and who is out there so you know your competition. Go to salary comparison sites as they can also contain valuable information regarding job roles and in-demand skills and they will also help you to benchmark yourself. Finally, leverage social media and online networking sites: check out company Facebook pages and join industry specific groups on sites such as LinkedIn and XING to tap into specific areas and establish new contacts that you can draw on.
Carry out a personal skills audit
Having formed a picture of your target market, list your qualifications, skills, strengths and experience and look at how you fare in relation to the requirements. Detail precisely any projects, placements, student competitions or niche activities you were involved in and the specific skills used/acquired, as well as clubs and societies that may demonstrate leadership potential.
“Graduates often forget the huge amount of planning, organisational and team-working skills they bring with them from their time at university when applying for their first role,” says Hernon, who recommends that if you are already in a job, not to merely focus on your current role when conducting a self-assessment but look at all the transferable skills you’ve picked up over the years. “Ensure you are aligning yourself with the needs of the wider job market and not just the requirements of your organisation. Speak up at appraisal-development meetings to ensure you are getting the development you need to keep you current.”
Take ownership of your own agenda
Identify the skills that would boost your market value the most and determine whether these are sufficiently well-developed or need upgrading and concentrate your efforts on these. Seek out work placements or internships that will set you on the path to achieving them. If you are currently employed look for projects, secondments or lateral moves that will stretch and equip you with the added experience or formally approach an experienced colleague who may be prepared to act as your mentor; better still if they are a key influencer within the industry.
Broaden your skill-set
While it is important to focus on technical skills and look for opportunities to apply these, don’t overlook interpersonal and non-technical skills development as the heightened demands of the profession today mean many employers are looking for well-rounded individuals. “There is little point being a technical genius in your field if you are unable to work with others, communicate effectively, plan and make effective decisions,” says Hernon. “Make sure you are developing yourself in these areas and can demonstrate this with examples during an interview.” Some of these skills can be acquired and honed from a part-time job, or performing voluntary or community work while you are looking for a full-time position.