Lizzie Darlington is Director of LSE Careers.
Why is demonstrating soft skills so important for recent graduates?
'In a highly competitive job market, recent graduates can no longer rely on a strong academic record to stand out from the crowd. Employers are increasingly looking for broad and rounded graduates. You can stand out from the field by illustrating your experience beyond the classroom.'
'One way of doing this is by getting involved in cultural groups and societies at school and university. By doing this, students can learn different real-world skills that cannot be learned in a classroom setting including teamwork, event planning, creative problem-solving, and fund-raising. Students should strongly consider getting involved in the running of these societies as this shows organisational, budgeting and leadership skills.'
'Another way you can demonstrate a well-rounded perspective is through work experience during academic studies. This can be through a traditional internship, but don’t discount working at a local coffee shop. If you have not become involved in any of these activities, you may find you need to pick up these skills at the end of their studies to build your CV.'
'The next important step is to be able to meaningfully articulate the value of these experiences and identify how you can use these skills in the workplace. Unfortunately, this is where many students fall short. Employers want to understand who you are by learning about how you have come to this point in your career. Being able to clearly knit together an interesting narrative that illustrates your values and aspirations will help prospective employers get a sense of who you are and the value you will bring to their team.'
Lizzie, you have also worked at both Oxford and Cambridge during your career, what distinguishes LSE students from other institutions?
'LSE is a very diverse and international university which is a huge attraction both for students and potential employers. The School also has a large volume of post-graduates so it can feel like a more career-oriented university.'
'What we have found is that graduates are very successful at the application phase of the interview process but fall down at the interview stage because they are not able to easily convey the soft skills they have developed. They also struggle to show how their unique identity and life experience can add value to the workplace. Graduates need to avoid sounding rehearsed in interviews and should think about injecting their own identity into the narrative they choose to tell about themselves in interviews.'
'One of the strengths of the LSE is that it is one of the best social science universities in the world. This means that our students are exposed to different perspectives and won’t have a carbon copy approach to problems that their contemporaries from a business school might have. For example, Economic History is a very popular course because it combines quantitative and qualitative critical thinking skills which would help graduates conduct research and write reports in a work environment. Having said this, students with strong social science courses might consider balancing their studies with business courses to make them more rounded candidates.'
How can students who have attended LSE Summer School use the experience for their CV and build their narrative?
'Attending an LSE Summer School could provide significant value to a graduate’s CV because employers are keen to see what networks you have built and how you have invested in your personal development while at university. So Summer School can be a big draw for employers because it shows that a student has gone out of their comfort zone and taken some time to do another course, building networks, and learning from an international co-hort.'
'However, you need to need to think about how you can talk about your experience at the LSE in a meaningful way that shows that you developed new skills, gained different perspectives, and increased your networks.'
'Students also need to find something that resonates with them and not just follow the crowd. They need to participate in things that genuinely interest them because that will engage them and will also come across well in interviews if articulated correctly.'
Lizzie Darlington is Director of LSE Careers.
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