Advice Hub

June 20, 2011

How to become employable

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Written by: Kyle Raffo
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The best way to make yourself employable after university is to keep yourself busily employed while you are still there. That doesn’t mean you have to have a paid job, although it helps, since employers always feel happier if they are taking a trusted employee away from somebody else. But you do need to spend every waking hour doing stuff.

Don’t worry if you don’t have that many waking hours. Just bear in mind that you can’t put “sleeping” down in the part of your CV that says “Hobbies and interests”. You can put almost anything else there, though, and the more eye-catching the better, so long as it involves lots of activity.

A leading light in the Mamma Mia! appreciation society? Fine, but only if you did more than watch the DVD a couple of times. You’ll need to prove you organised several events, such as a trip to the island where it was filmed (contact with other cultures goes down well), as well as being able to weigh up the pros and cons of Meryl Streep’s rendition of The Winner Takes It All. A title, such as society president, always helps, too.

So you not only need to do stuff, you need to know how what you do increases your employment value – and provide the proof. This means keeping records of what you have done and thinking about the skills you have developed. Jot down any achievements that demonstrate your flexibility, leadership and team-working skills so that you can pull them out for a CV, interview or impromptu chat with someone’s well-placed parent. And always ask for references from people who have witnessed your brilliance.

To do all this, you need to get organised early. Start identifying possible employment avenues as soon as you get to university, and find out as much as you can about what you will need to do to go down them. It can be useful to identify role models, and, if possible, a mentor. In fact, network generally. The more people you know, the more employment openings you will have later on, and the more you will be able to boast about your contacts to others.

Next, you need to decide what activities to adopt. Employers like people who have done volunteer work because it suggests they are interested in more than money (even if the reason they volunteered in the first place was to land a job in the City). You will also score points if you’ve done work experience or part-time work because this shows you know the basics of being employed, such as turning up every morning, knowing what a water cooler is, and going home again.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to keep up with studying. Employers find it reassuring if you do actually get a degree. They also like it if you can read and write, and do sums. It is even better if you can offer a special skill. IT skills go down well; trapeze artistry can be too specialised.

Employers also want to know that if they do employ you, the rest of their workers won’t hate you. So, develop communication skills. Practise being cheerful. Use deodorant.

Don’t forget that the more employable you make yourself, the less you’ll have to worry about impressing your employers once you actually land a job.




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