Employability and Skills Development
What is 'employability'?
'Employability' refers to your ability to obtain employment, stay in employment and make informed choices as you progress through your career. Recruiters assess your employability by looking for evidence of skills during the selection process that they consider essential for success in a professional environment. These commonly include:
- Working as part of a team
- Communicating clearly with co-workers and clients
- Critical and analytical thinking
- Problem solving ability
- Commercial or business awareness (PDF, 222 KB)
- Self-management and motivation
See TARGETjobs pages about skills and competencies for detailed information about what employers want to see and how to describe this.
Developing your employability skills
The Careers Service offers many workshops and events to help you develop your employability, and you will find that both your study and extra-curricular activities also provide opportunities to develop skills that are transferable to the workplace. Through your academic work, you will be developing a range of employability skills such as written and verbal communication, presentation skills, critical thinking and, if you work on group projects, valuable experience of working in a team. Leisure activities, such as sports and involvement with student societies, can help you to develop leadership, budgeting and organisation skills.
All employers also rate work experience very highly, as students who can provide evidence of professional skills are particularly valued. This experience doesn't have to be a structured internship; any employment, paid or voluntary, offers opportunities to develop your skills. And don't dismiss bar and shop work! Many students learn to work under pressure in these environments, developing their customer service skills and finding ways to deal with routine tasks. Even top law firms tell us how much they value work where students gain 'client-facing' experience, and that includes working for Tesco or Sainsbury's. The Careers Service offers support with learning from work experience, as well as how to find it, so look out for them if you feel that you could benefit from some skills development in this area.
Researcher Development Online for postgraduate research students and early career researchers
The University is working with Bath and Exeter Universities to develop a series of e-learning modules to support skills development for postgraduate research students and early career researchers; the modules are:
- Preparing for your viva
- Starting your doctorate
- Reviewing, managing and using literature
- Writing papers for publication, and
- Careers in academia.
Providing evidence of your employability
You can attend dozens of workshops on employability skills but if you can't provide the evidence of when you have successfully put these skills into practice, then you may find it difficult to progress with your job applications. CVs & covering letters and online application forms are opportunities to show off examples of your skills, and not to provide exhaustive lists of everything you have ever done! Application form questions such as, 'Describe a time when you encountered conflict when working in a team. How did you deal with this, and what was the outcome?' require specific examples supported by detailed evidence.
To develop and capture evidence of your employability, try the following:
The Bristol PLuS (Professional & Life Skills) Awards
These awards recognise and reward University of Bristol students who have gained significant professional and life skills through involvement in extra-curricular events and activities. This includes an Outstanding Achievement award. You will need to provide significant evidence of your development and make a presentation to gain the award.
Personal Development Planning (PDP)
This self-directed learning package available on the University Portal helps you to set goals, take action and record your development in any area of your life. Resources include self-assessment forms and advice on maintaining learning diaries and portfolios.
Use our ready-made network of more than 700 University of Bristol graduates to find out how they have developed their careers and seek their advice in developing your employability skills.
See also videos about career planning including Effective networking, What does commercial awareness mean to your business and Core skills employers look for amongst other titles.
Information on skills and employability for University Staff is also available from the Careers Service.