Key graduate career skills

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Woman sat at computer searching for graduate career skills she needs

No matter which route you choose to go down, there are key graduate career skills that apply across the board. In this section you'll find expert advice on how to build those soft skills, how to stand out as a graduate and much much more.

What key graduate career skills do I need?

Key career skills are ones that not only help you secure a job, but will help you throughout your entire career. These core skills can include:

Learn more about the skills you might possess and about how you can develop them further:

How to stand out as a graduate

  1. Take advantage of every opportunity to develop career skills - Fortune favours the brave - if you are presented with an opportunity, whether it's an opportunity to volunteer, work on a project or maintain a part-time job, take it. Even if the opportunity may not seem immediately linked to the future career you want to build, you can pick up vital skills.
  2. Explore, explore, explore - Unless you have always known what you want to do, it’s likely that you're weighing up a few career options. Nothing will help you firm up your future career path than personal experience - even if you complete an internship in an industry that you later realise isn’t for you, you’ve still learnt something very valuable. Knowing what you don’t like is just as important as knowing what you do like. Discover what you're really good at and how to develop your skills, and if you haven't chosen a career path yet, try our career path test!
  3. There is no substitute for hard work - It's been said that ‘an overnight success is ten years in the making'. No one ever got by on their smarts alone – you need to be dedicated, business-ready and willing to put in the hours. Like everything else in life, the more time you put into your career, the more you will get out of it.
  4. A little friendliness goes a long way - Throughout your career, you will work alongside various types of people, and friendliness goes a long way towards fostering good rapport and getting the best out of others. Whether learning from your manager, taking feedback well, networking with senior staff or helping out a new member of staff on their first day, being personable is a vital career skill that will put you ahead of the game.
  5. Learn from every experience - Above all, no matter what stage of education you're in or what age you are, those who are keen to learn are leagues above those who are just going through the motions. Keep a notepad on you at all times to note down any interesting bits of information or key learnings you come across along the way.

How to be a good public speaker

Having good presentation and public speaking skills is a growing desirable skill that employers look for in students and graduates. Here’s some advice and our top tips on how to present well:

  1. Understand your audience - knowing who you’re talking to and what the audience is looking to take away from your presentation is important. This will help you to focus on content they will be interested in and to target your presentation accordingly. 
  2. Practice - practice makes perfect right? In public speaking terms this is correct, but don’t practice so much that you’re repeating word-for-word what you’ve rehearsed, as this won’t sound natural.
  3. Keep it simple - why overcomplicate things when you can keep them straightforward and simple? It might seem basic, but this is the best way to get your point across in a clear and concise manner. 

Top tips from business leaders

1. You don't always need a plan

Your friends may have mapped out their career path for the next ten years, but you don't have to. It's ok to be without a plan - often the best opportunities come about through good luck and timing. You just need to be ready to grab them with both hands.

With a positive, can-do attitude and the ability to adapt quickly to a changing environment, you could find the absence of a grand scheme is actually a real asset in building your career.

2. Take risks

As mentioned above, make the most of opportunities as they arise - playing it safe will only get you so far. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone and you'll see your career take off.

It may seem daunting but trust your instincts. You know your strengths and weaknesses - be confident in yourself. And just remember, it's not always as risky as it seems.

3. Be yourself and stand out

There's no doubt about it, the graduate market is competitive. The best way to make your mark is to simply be yourself. It may sound clichéd but we're all unique and bring something different to the table.

Constantly comparing yourself to your peers can be counterproductive - we're all at different stages in our careers, striving to do different things. Believe you can do anything you want to in life and through hard work, curiosity and networking, you can achieve it.

4. Explore your options

Graduate schemes at big firms can be a brilliant first step in your career. However, they're not for everyone. Explore all the options open to you, even those that are a little more off the beaten track and you may be surprised at the variety out there.

There is no one path to success - it's a matter of choosing the right route for you, and this will no doubt change more than once over the course of your career.

5. Practice your handshake

You only get one chance to make a first impression and a strong handshake will always get you off to a good start. It may only last a few seconds but there's an art to the perfect handshake:

  • Greet the person using their first name
  • Make eye contact
  • Use a firm grip, without it being crushing
  • Shake their hand up and down for no more than five seconds

For more tips, take a look at the links below:

And if you don't know which career path to choose, try our career path test.

Tighten up your graduate career skills with Bright Network Academy 

This Bright Network Academy core career skills course will help you build on those core skills that you’ll need throughout your career - from presenting, to learning how to take on feedback. Get prepared for your first day!