This post comes from my colleague Kayleigh McGarry; it’s partly a promo of our CareerConfident week of events next week but also includes information on the sorts of skills employers are looking for and some handy hints on faux pas to avoid when you’re networking and meeting with employers – invaluable advice if you’re making contact with employers as part of your labour market research! Rebecca
Employers are increasingly looking for more than just strong academic results from students, as evidenced in last year’s CBI/Pearson Education And Skills Survey 2015, which found “businesses look first and foremost for graduates with the right attitudes and aptitudes to enable them to be effective in the workplace – nearly nine in ten employers (89%) value these above factors such as degree subject (62%)”. It was also noted that many businesses had concerns over graduates’ general readiness for the workplace, with 46% of businesses surveyed highlighting concerns over graduates’ levels of business and customer awareness.
CareerConfident16 week will start on the 18th January 2016, and there are lots of events taking place to provide you with the skills to manage the transition from student to professional smoothly, including coverage of the types of work-readiness skills employers are looking for, such as effective communication, commercial awareness and networking.
It is inevitable, however, that there will be a learning curve when starting a new job, and even the professionals in the Careers Service have made/witnessed the following workplace errors which you should avoid:
#1 – Don’t call me baby.
Always check whether it is appropriate to forward an email with the full chain of messages before it. It may be easy to just click that forward button to fill someone in on the history of an email conversation but it may also not be appropriate, as recalled by one member of staff who had much hilarity reading an email from an external client who had been referring to his secretary in previous emails as ‘Baby’, ‘Sweetie’ and ‘Honey’. In the same vain, carefully think about using the correct formality of tone in your own communications, it can be easy to slip into habits of everyday emailing and texting, however ending a work email with ‘xxx’ or ‘J’ is unlikely to be appropriate.
#2 – I’ll gerbil you tomorrow.
Spell check can be your best friend but also your worst enemy. Too many words in English can be misspelled and become another real word. So proof read anything formal or being sent to people who matter, as learned the hard way by one staff member who sent their boss an email starting “I know you are busty…” instead of “I know you are busy…”- luckily she had a sense of humour!
#3 – Small talk. Big embarrassment.
Many people struggle with an initial ice breaker at networking events, conferences and training sessions, particularly where you do not know anyone there. However, it may be best to stay away from the following faux pas when you don’t know who you are talking to:
Question: “Have you worked here long?” Response: “Yes, I am your boss/head of the organisation/very senior colleague who you should probably know”
Question: “Do you even know whose retirement party this is?” Response: “Yes, it is mine”
Question: “When is it due?” Response: “It’s not – I’ve got two grown-up sons”
#4 – Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the most presentation ready of them all?
It is always worth double checking your appearance in the mirror before a presentation or important meeting, or failing that asking an honest colleague if you look presentation ready. Our team have fed back numerous stories of food/drink misplacement, skirts tucked into tights, split trousers and extreme sweat patches which have taken away from a presenter’s performance.
You can minimise the risk of making workplace faux pas such as these by doing some research in advance of starting a new job or internship, such as checking with colleagues if any email guidelines exist, asking what is expected of you when attending a meeting and always clarifying instructions if you are not sure what you have been asked to do. You can also get advice from employers, Careers Service staff and your peers by attending CareerConfident16. More information, including how to book your place for an event, can be found on our website: www.ed.ac.uk/careers/confident