Written by Andrew Falconer
There’s often a desperation in candidates to stand out but few actually know what it means. When you are recruiting at graduate level, if we’re being honest, most candidates are very similar. They’ve all done the same sorts of internships, part-time jobs, co-curricular activities and that’s fine. It’s why we have the RED Award, our way of helping you package yourself for the graduate job market. If you’re not doing these things then you will definitely stand out – but for the wrong reasons as employers will likely reject you!
So with graduates all having similar experiences, how can you stand out? First things first: this is not a competition to see who can have the most extreme experience – there’s no need to climb Mt. Everest! When I’ve recruited in the private sector I’ve always looked for strong and authentic motivation and then for a “value-added”. That is, an additional skill that the candidate has recognised would be really helpful for me even if I hadn’t directly asked for it.
So over the last few weeks, I’ve been looking into some resources that will help you upskill and have an additional “value-added” insight that could potentially differentiate you from other candidates. I’ve been using LinkedIn Learning and these are my top 3 recommendations. You’ll need your Reading University log-in details to access the links.
With each of these courses you should not only gain some insight but also the language to help you articulate that to an employer. An employer will know that you haven’t necessarily put this into practice but should be impressed that you’ve spent time learning about it and are willing to apply this knowledge.
1. Customer Service Foundations
Most jobs have “customers”. They may be members of the public in a retail environment, other businesses in a business-to-business (b2b) context, private or internal clients – for example, other departments. The relationship is similar across all contexts and your reputation and that of your department of business can be made through delivering outstanding service.
I’ve chosen this particular course because it provides you with the basics and gets you thinking about what “outstanding customer service” looks like. You’ll learn how to build rapport with a customer, to identify their needs and solve problems. It should change the way you think about some of your academic work too – the dynamics in a group assignment aren’t so different: do you do the minimum or do you go above and beyond?
Going into a recruitment selection process armed with this insight will demonstrate your commitment to your department’s reputation and willingness to deliver to a high standard. What recruiter doesn’t want that?
2. Project Management Foundations
It’s unlikely you’ll be project managing large initiatives in your early career but very likely that you’ll be part of somebody else’s, and you’ll probably have smaller projects of your own. Project Management can be a https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/project-managerfascinating career path in its own right with qualifications and promotion opportunities.
You may find yourself working alongside project managers so knowing the issues they face and being able to talk “their language” can help you deliver what’s required. Some projects are incredibly complex (have a look at some of the PM roles working for Crossrail) with hundreds of dependencies and sub-projects. However, in many organisations a project will be more straightforward, collaborating with other departments and, potentially, outside stakeholders.
This course is LONG! Which is why we don’t believe you need to do it all. The following tutorials should give you enough of an overview to be able to understand the key concepts and be able to talk a little about it in interview. Agile is a key approach these days, with a language of its own!
|What is a Project?|
|What is Project Management?|
|What it takes to be a Project Manager|
|Project Management Life Cycle|
|Traditional v Agile Project Management|
|Project Planning Overview|
If you can explain what a project is, how the role you’re applying to fits within one (you need to be aware of how your role fits into the bigger picture) and some basic terminology you will be seen as a potential asset for the department.
3. Publishing on LinkedIn
LinkedIn can provide a platform for you to demonstrate your interest in a subject or profession. You can use it to enhance your “personal brand”, giving recruiters greater evidence of your motivation for the role. When you don’t have much experience to draw on, having a portfolio of articles and evidence of engagement with the industry online can be a really strong asset. This portfolio also help recruitment agencies decide which candidates to put forward to a client because, once again, you have provided the evidence they need.
This course will help you think about what to write and how to write it. It gives good tips on promoting your work and responding to comments. The course accepts that everyone has to start somewhere and LinkedIn provides a platform to help you start.
LinkedIn Learning has hundreds of courses that you can do in your spare time. Employers like that dedication to personal development, above and beyond what is expected. Doing something out of curiosity (there’s even a course for that!) tells a recruiter more about you, allowing you to truly stand out.