And now… Find a job (by Dr Graeme Porte)

Many of our students assume they are destined to one or two specific occupations when they join our degree. To a certain extent this is understandable. You receive little or no careers guidance from school through university, and parents often assume your futures in the work place are obvious from your late teens.

I can see why this has come about: the Spanish education system – like the Italian – works in such a way that your future occupation is supposedly manifested – if not decided – by the choice you make at Bachillerato and certainly by the time you choose your degree. It indicates what will be your job for life.

So, for example, fresher Farmacia degree students will likely eventually open up a chemist’s, those in Traductores will become translators, those in Caminos – engineers, in Empresariales you find the future managers, and those in Estudios Ingleses…well, you’re going to be teachers, of course. Sadly, we have no research which shows how far such hypotheses are true when you do get your jobs – but my point is that the assumption is already made around the age of 16. It is all well defined. There is no interaction between your skills acquired outside and those acquired during your degree course.

Now, some few years ago, that assumption was a fair bet. After all, Spain had the need, the capacity, the infrastructure, and the economic resources to absorb all these pre-destined teachers, chemists, translators, engineers, economists, doctors, nurses, psychologists, etc.

But not now. And I suspect not for a very long time to come, either. So now you need to adapt to a world of work that’s changed.

You now need to see your careers developing along different lines and see your degree as a place of specific learning and general skills acquisition which will set you up for a large number of possible jobs in a large number of places – rather than just one or two specific ones.

You must start thinking about the skills you’ve acquired inside and outside your degree experience as soon as you arrive in first year – and continue doing so until your final year. Having such a list available – together with the detailed examples of where and how you acquired these skills – is a vital part of writing your CV, of composing a covering letter to apply for a job, and of presenting yourself convincingly in an interview.

These skills are commonly known as “transferable skills” and you all have them.

Every student should be aware of those they possess before they compose their CV or apply for a job. If you want to get that job after the interview or even have your CV read (rather than thrown in the bin), you’re going to need the skills to do the job in question. It’s as simple as that.

Transferable skills and/or knowledge are what you learn and develop in one situation which can then be used and applied in another situation. Most of us don’t even realise the ones we have picked up in our lives. But they are many. And they are going to be very useful to be applied elsewhere.

You may have acquired them on social occasions, writing on the computer, giving private classes, negotiating to get something you want, sticking up for yourself in the classroom, dealing with the public, while playing sports, or in that job that you really hated… but needed the money. The great thing is that you already have them.

But maybe you didn’t think they were in the slightest bit important.

They are – and they will be to somebody else, too!

Why? Because they make you adaptable to a number of experiences (and jobs) – not only one. Transferable skills are a way for you to show that you can do the job, even if you aren’t the perfect fit for the job. The more relevant skills that you have, the more likely you will be to get the job offered or advertised. Transferable skills can highlight your potential to be an asset to a company.

So what are they? It’s a long list! It comprises all those things you have interacted with – successfully or otherwise – in your life. For reasons of space, here are just a few (of around a hundred!) to think about. I’ve taken them from advertised job descriptions for work at various levels of entry for 6 international companies chosen at random.

The key point to understand is that each of them represents skills which can be useful to multinational companies (for example) in totally different situations than you may have acquired them! I reckon you already have a lot of them – if not all of them! Take a minute to think how you have acquired these in your life.

I have included them here for you to find out in where you have acquired such a skill and doing what. Make sure you think about this before you get older – once the memory of these skills goes, it becomes more difficult for you to justify you did them or possess them later down the line at interview or on a CV.

And, by the way, you may not know, but our degree description has – by law – to describe some of these skills, and they are conveniently listed here, described as Competencias: http://docencia.ugr.es/pages/_grados-verificados/27285gradoenestudiosingleses/!

  • Working with data, analyzing, interpreting and presenting it.
  • Be able to present written and visual communication through an understanding of linguistic structure.
  • Work independently AND as part of a team.
  • Managing/Leading a team of people towards a specific objective.
  • Prioritising and working to deadlines.
  • Acquiring bibliographic and research skills.
  • Synthesis and structure an argument effectively in writing and speaking.
  • Use available electronic media to achieve an objective.
  • Analysing and evaluating work critically.
  • Discriminating and judging between points of view.
  • Using imagination and creativity to produce an original idea or concept.
  • Confident public speaker, can maintain the interest of an audience.

Author: Dr Graeme Porte (http://www.ugr.es/~gporte/)

Editing: Dr Graeme Porte and E.R.S.

Pictures: B.L.G.

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