Employers expect you to have developed certain employability skills at school, college or university if you are interested in applying to the finance or consultancy sectors. We have listed the core employability skills below with suggestions of how to build and improve on these while you are still studying.

These qualities are often referred to as ‘transferable skills’ as they can be applied to a wide number of sectors and roles. Therefore, spending time focusing on and developing this skill set will always stand you in good stead, even if you change your mind about which sector is best for you once you have gained some experience in a certain role.

Commercial awareness

Understanding the key factors behind a successful business and what makes an industry relevant is important when it comes to applications and interviews. It will also help you to further understand what your career might be like and if your chosen industry is right for you. If you already have a role in mind, look into how it impacts on the wider business. Employers will want to know you understand how your work affects their overall objectives. In addition to this, having a thorough understanding of current affairs will help you stand out from the crowd in job interviews and assessment centres. This is especially true in the Banking sector.

To get involved:

  • Ask your manager or the business owner at your part-time job to give you an overview of how their business works and the sort of things they have to consider on a weekly basis. You could also ask any contact you may have in your prospective industry to speak to you about how it all works. If you manage to obtain work experience or a summer placement, networking with colleagues will be brilliant for this.
  • Subscribe to The Financial Times and The Economist – there are usually good offers for students. Keep up to date with sector specific industry news by finding out if there are any more focused publications (e.g. The Actuary, Accountancy Age or The Banker).
  • Attend any talks or presentations organised by your school or university in the area of your interest.
  • Visit your Careers Service and see if there are any alumni you could speak to currently working in your sector of interest.
  • Read about the industry you are interested in on the relevant area of the Inside Careers website.
  • Join groups or follow industry leaders on LinkedIn to stay on top of what’s going on.

Problem solving and taking initiative

Finance and consultancy recruiters want to see that you are able to analyse figures, facts and situations on your own and arrive at a rational conclusion. If you can give examples of a time when you improved a process, this will also impress. Ideas to help you develop these abilities include:

  • Starting your own society, organisation or even small business.
  • Creating your own website or building one for a society that you are involved in.
  • Helping to increase membership or participation for an event or society.
  • Practicing numerical and verbal reasoning tests on the Inside Careers website.
  • Joining a consultancy, business or economic group and taking part in group activities.

Communication skills

This is a big one that you are going to hear about time and time again. Employers need to know that you have strong interpersonal skills and can communicate effectively both verbally and in writing. You can build communication skills by:

  • Joining the debating society at your school, college or university.
  • Persuading guest speakers to attend an event you are helping to organise.
  • Securing sponsorship for a society or club.
  • Maintaining a blog on an area that interests you – even better if this is an area related to your career aspirations.
  • Contributing articles to student publications.
  • Completing work experience in a customer service role.

The ability to work as part of a team

Companies like to see evidence that you can work effectively in a group and achieve an impressive outcome. Consider the following activities to hone and showcase this ability:

  • Getting involved in team sports whilst at school or university.
  • Becoming a member of a band, choir or getting involved in a drama society.
  • Choosing to do group project work on your modules where possible – it is good to have a mix of both individual and group projects to speak about during applications and interviews.

Leadership qualities

Being able to demonstrate that you have leadership potential is very attractive to employers. Prove that you are able to motivate, influence and organise others by having the following examples under your belt:

  • Organise an event with a society you are part of or for your school year.
  • Volunteer with a charity during your free time and aim to progress to a more influential or even managerial position.
  • Becoming team captain of a sports team or a society is impressive.

Self-management

Although you are likely to have a structured support system in place in most internship and work experience schemes, employers will be impressed to see that you can effectively manage your own time, are adaptable and resilient. You can also impress by showing that you are able to improve your performance on receiving feedback, here’s how:

  • Keeping up with your hobbies and interests outside of your studies show that you are capable of balancing numerous responsibilities and workloads.
  • Independently upskilling yourself – research free or affordable courses offered by your school, university, local library etc. that are relevant to your area of interest. Free coding courses are becoming more widely available.
  • You could set yourself a personal goal to complete a marathon or triathlon – this requires considerable dedication – or independent travel can highlight self-reliance and flexibility.

Organisational skills

Another big one – employers want to see that you are proficient at scheduling resources and that you have the ability to multi-task to achieve your objective on time. The following activities can help you to develop these skills:

  • Staying on top of your studies and achieving strong exam results.
  • Organising a group or event to raise money for charity.
  • Organising a trip for a club or society.
  • Editing a student publication or maintaining a student or personal website.

All of these skills will be useful when applying for opportunities in the finance or consultancy sectors.

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