Graduate cap on a pink and blue background.
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6 skills you’ll need as a graduate entering the job market

9 Sep 2020

Just starting out on your career? It can feel daunting as a graduate, but focusing on these skills could be a big help.

Click here to view the Graduate Month series.

If you’re a new graduate, it can be hard to imagine which skills you’ll need going forward in your career. You’re fresh out of college and you’ve likely spent the summer doing your best to forget everything you learned throughout your course. You shouldn’t worry, however, because many of the skills you’ll need to take your first step into the world of work are ones you may already have.

1. Flexibility

Depending on your area of study, you might have spent the past few years focusing on a specific subject. But many graduate roles and programmes will see you spend time on different projects, whether it’s through official rotations or natural workflow.

Andrew Baird joined Liberty IT’s graduate programme as a back-end developer, but said that working there introduced him to new areas, including DevOps and full-stack development.

Go into your first job with an open mind and remember that, whether you were aware of it or not, college required you to be flexible on many occasions and that’s going to come in handy.

2. A willingness to learn

You’ve spent that past number of years focused on learning, especially if you went straight to college from school. The truth is, though, that the biggest lessons are potentially still ahead of you. It’s hard to know what working life is really like until you’ve found your place in it and, for most people, learning on the job is where they pick up and refine a huge chunk of their skills.

According to Declan McEnroy, bringing a willingness to learn to his graduate role at MSD was critical to his development.

3. Bringing forward ideas in the right way

As future of work expert Cheryl Cran explains in this guest article, graduates can bring much-needed “idealism and enthusiasm” to companies. You might feel comfortable sharing your ideas at the team meeting, and that’s great. But it’s important to go about it in the right way.

Cran advises against “denigrating the past” or work that has been done by your more senior colleagues. Instead, she says to “honour the past and offer to provide ideas that can build on success and create more future success”.

4. Patience

Cran also says you should be patient as a graduate. Different companies move at very different paces, and this is something you’ll begin to realise pretty quickly in your career. Whatever the rate of progress, there will always be lots for you to learn, so make the most of it.

Patience is also a virtue if you’re taking part in a graduate programme. If you’re going to be rotating teams or departments throughout, you might end up in some areas that aren’t suited to you or it might take some time for your involvement in projects to really take off.

5. Managing insecurities

If you’re worried that you won’t live up to expectations, you’re not alone. In fact, this feeling can impact people at any stage of their career, not just when they’re entering their first job.

For Colin Walsh, he was unsure of what to expect from his graduate role at PwC and was initially worried that he “wouldn’t be qualified enough for the work”. But PwC and many other companies have been honing their onboarding processes for years. During this time, you’ll get to meet other new starters and receive training, and hopefully you’ll gain more confidence.

6. Welcoming challenges

While it’s important to keep your insecurities in check, it’s also important to anticipate challenges. A great way to approach challenges is to see them not as a test or a block, but as another opportunity to learn. Also, they can often be fun.

The mindset you adopt when faced with a challenge can speak volumes over the actual outcome. This is a skill that will serve you for the rest of your career. As Ella Lyons explains, starting her role at Aon’s Centre for Innovation and Analytics was “daunting”. However, her confidence grew over time and taking ownership and being open to challenges were a big help.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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