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How students can improve their employability

Our Director of Employability, John Watkins and his team of careers and employability experts work closely with students and employers to understand and develop the skills needed in today’s workplace. John has been able to identify some of the behavioural traits that will help students succeed. Below he shares areas that students can focus on to improve their employability.

By Elsa Tatam. Published 26 March 2023. Last edited 04 December 2023.

Embrace the opportunity to excel in different types of teams

There have always been different team sizes and structures, but over the last few years there has also been a rise in remote and virtual teams. This can be complex for an inexperienced employee who may have had limited exposure to settings with a broad range of ages, and people with differing attitudes and capabilities.

Working well with other individuals isn't something you learn overnight, particularly when students have spent most of their lives hanging out with people who are pretty similar to themselves. It is important to reflect on experiences and ask your supervisors and mentors for advice on how to best contribute.

Learn to accept different types of feedback

Another challenge faced by students entering the workplace is the type of feedback they expect. In an educational environment, feedback is all about the quality of work submitted. But employee feedback tends to revolve around behaviour, because quality of work is largely taken for granted.

How do you relate to other people? Do you have a pleasant manner? What is your mood like under pressure? These factors often shape careers far more than people are willing to accept. As a result, preparing students to accept behavioural feedback, and respond to it, is really important.

Polish your IT skills and understand the AI revolution

The assumption in the digital age is that graduates can do anything IT related, but they often come up short on the more complex office packages. For an employer, this can be frustrating, and also costly. The prevalence of remote working requires not only the ability to operate effectively on a number of different platforms, but also an aptitude for building and developing relationships remotely.

AI provides both opportunities and threats. The pace of change is fast and accelerating. It is important for students to understand where added value comes from; the efficiency of technology and the commercial judgment/emotional intelligence of a professional. There will be new areas of technology which emerge over the coming years and students should be ready to embrace these changes.

Grab employability opportunities

It’s no surprise that employers value experience. So, it’s important for students to seek out opportunities wherever they can. Whether it’s a part time job, an internship, work experience (virtual or otherwise), or volunteering opportunity, you’ll have the chance to combine your academic learning with a working environment. The perfect training ground to hone your skills and develop the competences necessary for the workplace.

It can also help to understand exactly what employers are looking for. What skills do they require their employees to have? What areas might you need to develop? Explore our collection of advice from recruiters pages to see what many renowned businesses look for in a graduate and identify areas for your personal development.  

Be flexible with your ambitions

The opportunity to develop your employment skills can be found in a diverse range of workplaces. Be broad-minded and ambitious enough to see where you can use the highly valued qualifications you’re working towards. We have many successful global business leaders, entrepreneurs, and senior politicians amongst our alumni who have done just this. If you look around the market, and think outside the box, there is no shortage of opportunity.


Are you a current student looking to improve your employability skills? Find out more about our award-winning employability service and get support today.