What skills, knowledge and attitudes do students need to succeed in life and employment? La Trobe University Graduate Capabilities lists the university’s findings on this question and it’s very similar to the 8 key employability skills mentioned elsewhere in this blog. If you match the two lists up and reflect on the skills and qualities required in your field, you can actively improve your chances of getting the job you want when you graduate. It’s about being strategic – taking  charge of your learning by consciously building (and keeping evidence of) your skills while you are at uni .


I’ll have my degree – why do these other capabilities and skills matter?

Employers will want evidence of the skills you have that match specific job requirements. You might say you have communication and teamwork skills but what real and relevant examples can you use to show and explain this? To be competitive, your examples should draw on at least some experiences beyond study.

For example, in your:

• answers to questions in a job application form

cover letter


• responses to key selection criteria

• answers to behavioural-based questions at an interview

Think about employability skills in your discipline

Here are some activities you might expect to do as part of your academic studies which will also develop your employability skills. There are great similarities between the sets of skills listed here. They are all examples of generic competencies, increasingly used in education, employment and industry to identify the key attributes needed for success in employment, education and daily life.

Studying Art & Design?

This may involve…

  • setting goals, managing own workload and meeting deadlines
  • working in an interdisciplinary environment and collaborating with others
  • analysing problems and using both logical and lateral thinking in solutions
  • accommodating change, and handling ambiguity, uncertainty and unfamiliarity.

Studying Arts?

This may involve…

  • making a structured argument based on an assessment of historical evidence
  • expressing ideas in writing with coherence and clarity
  • retrieving information from various sources and extracting key elements
  • critically applying methodologies for quantifying, analysing and interpreting data
  • exercising independent critical judgements.

Studying Business & Economics?

This may involve…

  • modelling and data analysis, interpretation and extrapolation
  • listening, negotiating and persuading
  • problem solving and decision making by creating, evaluating and assessing options
  • judging critically the merits of particular arguments
  • prioritising issues in terms of relevance and importance.

Studying Education?

This may involve…

  • questioning concepts and theories encountered in learning
  • communicating and present oral and written arguments
  • reflecting on individual value systems, development and practices.

Studying Information Technology?

This may involve…

  • planning solutions using criteria and specifications relevant to specific problems
  • presenting reasoned arguments that address a problem or opportunity
  • identifying, analysing and evaluating the information needs of different groups
  • providing access to information via different delivery strategies
  • project management skills, including planning, execution and evaluation.

Studying Health Sciences?

This may involve…

  • analysing, interpreting and critically evaluating data
  • using assessment techniques, identifying and prioritising possible problems
  • communicating effectively with clients
  • liaising and negotiating within a multi-discipline team.

Studying Sciences?

This may involve…

  • planning, conducting and reporting on investigations through individual & group projects
  • working with complexity and change
  • developing arguments from scientific, philosophical and ethical perspectives
  • accessing, analysing and processing information from a range of sources.

(Adapted from Degrees of Skill, The Council for Industry & Higher Education, UK, 2006)

Know your skills, build on them and write them down for future reference

Plan ahead. Start thinking about the skills and qualities you’ve developed through experiences including work, study, volunteering and extra-curricular activities. What are the connections between the tasks and skills needed in, say,  a sports club, band or community organisation and the tasks, skills and requirements for paid graduate roles?

There may be different priorities given to particular skills by certain industries and individual organisations, so make sure you highlight the skills most relevant to specific positions when you start writing  job applications.


Create a list of your skills and work-related experiences in a format that you can add to over time.

Begin by listing the 8 employability skills and add in La Trobe University Graduate Capabilities.

Against each skill, record examples from the  work, study, volunteering and/or extra-curricular activities you’ve done up until now.

For future reference, add further detail using the STAR method. (This involves describing the situation, the tasks you needed to do, the actions you took, and the results of those actions.)

Include information about dates, places and the results of what you did.

Keep your list somewhere accessible and update it regularly. You’ll be able to draw on all this information when you update your resume and LinkedIn profile, apply for jobs and prepare for interviews.