How universities help you acquire the soft skills employers need

In today’s competitive jobs market, the in-depth subject knowledge and cutting-edge technical skills taught at UK universities are crucial. But recent research suggests that soft skills are becoming ever more necessary too – thanks in part to the rise in AI.

A survey of almost 700 business leaders shows that generative AI is widespread, automating tasks such as drafting messages and reports, and summarising and revising texts. However, personal capabilities such as communication, empathy, leadership, resilience and conflict management are impossible to outsource to machines – and they’re vital for healthy, people-centred workplaces and c-suite careers.

UK universities are keen to help their students become the well-rounded team players that employers love, and you’ll find you practise soft skills naturally as you study. Plus, your student support services may be able to give you advice to hone them further.

Meanwhile, here are our top tips for nurturing your transferable personal and people skills during your studies.

1. Get involved in university life

At a UK university, you’ll meet people from a huge range of countries and backgrounds. You’ll expand your horizons and learn how to communicate across cultures: vital skills for your future career.

Get to know people outside your classes and your accommodation by joining one of the numerous social societies you’ll find at university. It can be as crazy as you like – creativity is valued by employers. Acquiring those employer-friendly soft skills can be fun!

2. Step outside your comfort zone

To boost your resilience – a highly important soft skill – it pays to prove that you can thrive in strange environments. International students have an in-built advantage here!

So if you find the first weeks of your UK studies hard, remind yourself you’re developing as a person. And if you continue to struggle, don’t be embarrassed to ask your international office for support.

3. Embrace self-directed learning

One of the biggest jumps from school to university is the expectation of self-study. If you’re used to learning by rote or being spoon-fed information, it can be a shock.

But resourcefulness, self-motivation and a solid work ethic are vital soft skills that employers want to see. So develop them now – and reap the rewards in both your studies and your career.

4. Contribute to classes

Teamwork and clear communication are two of the most sought-after skills in today’s workplace, so seek out group projects where you can hone these skills. They’re a key component of university courses nowadays: for example, many UK medical schools have incorporated problem-based learning into their curriculums.

And while presentations make many students nervous, they do give you great experience that will come in handy in the future when you’re pitching to investors, sharing business data with the board, or launching a joint research project.

5. Master key techniques

You might think that soft skills cannot be taught as they’re personal attributes. But you can certainly pick up techniques – and your university can offer support.

Many higher education institutions offer a range of workshops and other support in skills such as presentation and communication. Ask student support services for more information.

Plus, there’s a wealth of information online. For example, you could practise active listening to help you become a more empathetic and supportive colleague.

6. Gain work experience

Finally, a stint in the workplace – whether through a placement, internship or volunteer post - will give you valuable insights into the soft skills you’ll need to thrive throughout your career. Good luck!

If you’re looking for a graduate job, or want advice for international students seeking a career in the UK or globally, register today with Gradlink. We offer a free jobs board, a database of global employers, and industry-specific advice.

By Q Content Published: Apr 30,2024

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