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What is Employability?

Employability refers to your ability to gain initial employment, maintain employment, and obtain new employment if required. In simple terms, employability is about being capable of getting and keeping fulfilling work. “Employability is having a set of skills, knowledge, understanding and personal attributes that make a person more likely to choose and secure occupations in which they can be satisfied and successful. Dacre Pool & Sewell 2007

Your employability depends on:

. Your Knowledge (what you know)
. Your Skills (what you do with what you know)
. Your Attitudes (how you approach things)
. The way you use your knowledge and skills and present them to employers, and the context (e.g. personal circumstances and work sector within which you seek work.

Employability Skills

Employers are often looking for skills that go beyond qualifications and experience. Your education and experience may make you eligible to apply for a job but, to be successful in most roles, you will need skills that you are likely to develop over time. Some will be specific to the job, but the vast majority will be so-called ‘soft skills’ that can be used in any job or employment sectors. These soft skills are ‘employability skills’: they are what makes you employable. As a general rule, employers are willing to teach someone the job-specific skills required, such as how to operate particular pieces of machinery, or use particular computer packages that are very specific to that role or company. However, they usually want to see that you already have the other ‘soft skills’ before hiring, because they are much harder to teach.

Employability or ‘soft skills’ are the building blocks of your career. The media frequently run stories on how these skills are lacking in school-leavers, graduates and/or those already in employment. Organisations spend a lot of time and money training staff, not in job specific areas but in general and basic skills. In times of high unemployment, employers have more choice of applicants and will favour those with well-rounded employability skills.

Most of us start to develop these skills early on in life, but we may not be aware that we are doing so.
Remember, though, that mastering these skills is a long-term process: there are few people who could—or would—ever claim that their soft skills could not be improved.

Taxonomy of Employability Skills
An open mind, and a willingness to embrace new ideas, is probably one of the most useful attributes that you can bring to any organisation. The most important employability skills are in the areas of:

  • Getting along with and working well with other people, such as communication skills and other interpersonal skills;
  • Being reliable and dependable: doing what you say you will by the deadline you have agreed, and turning up when you are meant to be there; and
  • A willingness to learn new skills, whether those are job-specific or more general.

The rest of this page looks at these three areas in turn and highlights specific pages that may be helpful in developing these skill areas.

1. Working Well with Other People

The skills required to work well with other people are known as interpersonal skills.
Good interpersonal skills allow you to participate effectively as a member of a team, satisfy customers’ and clients’ expectations, negotiate, make decisions and solve problems with other people, and generally work effectively with other employees. Well-honed interpersonal skills allow us to empathise and build rapport with colleagues and clients, leading to a better and less stressful working environment. There are a range of areas covered by interpersonal skills, including:

Communication skills - these are the skills required to transmit or receive messages accurately to and from other people by speaking or in writing, without misunderstandings. These skills include:

Verbal Communication – or the words that we use, whether face-to-face or in writing. The balance between face-to-face and in writing is likely to vary in different jobs, but few, if any, will not want at least some of each type of communication;

Non-Verbal Communication – or what we communicate without words, for example through body language, tone of voice, or even emojis;

Listening – how we take in and then interpret the verbal and non-verbal messages sent by others, including in writing.

Emotional intelligence – or the ability to recognise, understand and manage your own and others’ emotions, and use them positively to achieve the desired outcomes.

Team-working – the ability to work with others in groups and teams, both formal and informal. Not everyone is required to work in a close-knit team—despite the language used in many organisations—but the ability to function well in a group is a vital skill in most jobs.

Negotiation, persuasion and influencing skills – these skills all relate to finding mutually agreeable solutions to problems or situations, whether by persuading others that your solution is best, or finding a better alternative by sharing ideas.

Conflict resolution and mediation – or the skills required to resolve disagreements in a positive way, whether your own disagreements or those involving other people. These skills are often underrated until there is a problem.

Problem-solving and decision-making – or the skills needed to work effectively with others to identify, define and solve problems, including making decisions about the best course of action. Of course, it is also possible to make decisions and solve problems on your own, but being required to do so with others adds an extra dimension to the situation.

Not all of these areas will be required at all times in every job. However, you can be reasonably certain that you are likely to need them at some point in your career, and many of them will be needed every day.
If you are not sure whether you need to work on your interpersonal skills, or which particular areas to target, you may find it helpful to take our Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment to discover your strengths and weaknesses in this area. This will allow you to focus on particular areas that need further development.

2. Being Reliable and Dependable

Being reliable and dependable means, basically, doing what you say that you will do. It also, however, means being able to look around and see what needs doing—and then do it. This sounds simple, but it requires a wide range of skills, mostly personal rather than interpersonal.

First of all, doing what you say you will do means being organised, and managing your time effectively. You need to know how long things will take, and that you have the time to do them to the required standard. You also need to be able to identify what to do first, so that if anything is missed, it is less important. Our page on time management explains how you can do this. Being reliable also means being trustworthy and conscientious. For example, this might mean not leaving work (too often) when things still need doing. Trustworthiness and conscientiousness are both parts of self-regulation or self-management, which in turn is an important part of emotional intelligence. Self-regulation means that you have the self-discipline to do things that you may not want to do, but which you know are necessary.

People who are self-regulated and reliable take responsibility for their own actions and ensure that they live up to their values. They keep track of deadlines and deliver to them without needing to be chased up. Being reliable does not, however, mean that you have to do everything yourself. Sometimes, it may mean asking for help when you see that you are not going to be able to meet a deadline otherwise. The final element of being reliable is using your initiative to identify where work needs doing, and getting on and doing it. Daniel Goleman, who developed the concept of emotional intelligence, identified initiative as a key part of self-motivation. He defined it as ‘readiness to act on opportunities’. To develop your ability to use your initiative, you may find it helpful to work on some techniques for creative thinking, which are also helpful in addressing the final area: a willingness to learn. .

3. A Willingness to Learn

A willingness to learn means being open to new ideas and experiences, and always looking to improve your skills and knowledge. Sometimes this is referred to as personal development, but that term is also used for a more formal process, of goal-setting, action and reflection. Whether you choose to make your learning process formal or informal, there is no question that the modern world requires all of us to continually update and revise our skills. .

Change is a constant in most workplaces, and the most valuable employees are those who embrace personal change, and recognise that it offers more opportunities than threats. Employers generally want people who are resilient, adaptable and flexible—another key part of self-regulation and emotional intelligence. .

Important things to know about employability for your career

Career ownership - only you are responsible for your career development and management (no one else can do it for you) Continuous (life-long) learning and development of skills are expected by employers and clients Security lies in employability (that is, your ability to obtain and maintain employment) rather than in employment (that is, a specific job) Employers want graduates with relevant subject skills, knowledge and understanding, but in addition to this are looking for well-rounded individuals who have a set of personal and general life skills that equip them to adapt well , learn new and specific skills of the job and participate and contribute in a valuable way in their organisation. .

You are constantly developing useful and marketable skills through managing college work, assignments and projects, part time jobs, involvement in sports, Interests and extracurricular activities. .

Top 12 Skills that make you Employable

Personal Development – “Getting the most from yourself and others”

All employers will want to know that you’re committed to your own self-development. There are many ways to demonstrate this. It might be that you’ve overcome a difficult obstacle or you could have gone out of your way to learn a new skill. What is important is that you have pushed yourself.

Communication – “Listening actively as well making yourself heard”

Employers look for people who know how to get their point across clearly, articulately and professionally. Just as importantly, you should be a good listener – you’ll take other people’s opinions on board and actively seek out feedback. You’ll also be comfortable in talking to groups.

Creativity and Innovation – “Seeing newer and better ways forward”

Successful organisations are fueled by good ideas. Employers will want to know that you can come up with interesting suggestions and that you’re always looking for better ways of doing things. Good ideas come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – and the best ideas aren’t necessarily the biggest

Teamwork – “Supporting other people to achieve success”

The ability to get along with others and to lead a team to success is vital to any organisation. This means that you need to be able to demonstrate that you’re a natural team player and that you can adapt your style to accommodate others if you need to.

Professionalism – “Taking pride in everything you do”

Employers will expect you to be committed to delivering the best standards, adopting the right procedures and maintaining the highest levels of confidentiality. This means staying motivated and for all talks and upholding complete professionalism, even in conflicts or difficult conversations.

Organisational skills – “Juggling priorities and preparing for the unexpected”

In most jobs, you’ll be expected to take responsibility for your own workload. Employers will want to know how you manage your course work and used your initiative to deal with the unexpected.

Problem solving/analysing – “Looking at issues from a different angle”

In the world of work, things don’t always go according to plan. That is why employers need to know that you can analyse information, identify any potential issues and come up with effective solutions.

Initiative – “Thinking ahead and on your feet”

In any job, you’ll need to be able to take the initiative. Although it’s important that you follow the right rules and regulations, you should also be confident when it comes to suggesting new or different ways of doing things, or anticipating problems or issues before they arise.

Ability to use new technologies

Technology is involved in almost every job. It is the 21st century way of doing and working: whether this involves keeping records of information, communicating with others, maintaining accounts or understanding a manufacturing system. Almost every job involves using technology some sort. It is vital to be comfortable with it.

Value addition

Value addition refers to creation of a competitive advantage by combining packaging features and benefits or through any other method that results in greater customer acceptance. Its examples are: 1. Offering one year of free support on a new computer would be a value-added feature. 2. Turning cotton into fabric Here fabric has more usefulness than cotton. 3. Turning milk into cheese Cheese has got more specific uses than milk. 4. Packaging ready-to-use grated cheese into serving size packets. 5. Turning wood into paper - Utility of paper is more than wood.

Flexibility – “Being adaptable”

As an employee, it is vital that you keep pace with a constantly evolving workplace. You’ll need to show that you respond to change positively and can adapt quickly while still working productively to a high standard.

Commercial awareness – “Knowing how to add value”

Commercial awareness is the ability to understand what makes a business or organisation successful, through either buying or selling products or supplying services to a market. Does the organisation produce, sell, or buy products? Or is it in the services or ideas business?

Who are its customers? Are they other businesses, or ‘ordinary people’? What’s going on in the market sector? Are there legal or regulatory changes on the way, or does the economic situation have a larger-than-usual impact?

Having commercial awareness is also as important for the Public Sector. Whatever sector you want to work in, it’s important that you understand how it operates and the different issues that affect it. Look also at the skills sought by employers in your sector and think about how you will show that you can apply them to add value to their organisation.

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