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Sunday 20 October 2019
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Eight steps to improve your employability

ACCA Column

“Employers are demanding that workers for the 21st century must possess the knowledge, technical skills, and “soft-skills” to function effectively and be competitive in the workplace. To attain this level of competitiveness, workers must be lifelong learners who will continue to increase their knowledge and update their skills, for upward mobility in the workplace.”

www.ilo.org/caribbean

Unemployment continues to be one of the biggest issues facing many countries today, with governments devoting countless resources towards policies and initiatives aimed at meeting the employment demands of their ever-increasing populations. The Caribbean is no exception.

Despite a small drop in average unemployment rates in Latin America and the Caribbean over the past year, slow economic growth coupled with uncertainty around future trends and rising youth unemployment continue to give some cause for concern. (ILO World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2019)

Thousands of students across the Caribbean graduate from universities and other tertiary education institutions annually and are facing the reality that being qualified is simply not enough and that additional skills may be needed to increase chances of sustainable employability in such a competitive and challenging environment.

Although finance professionals are in demand, competition for job vacancies and internships remains fierce. In turn, this has contributed to a rise in employer expectations who are increasingly looking for candidates who not only stand out but can also prove they understand what it takes to succeed in the workplace.

So what exactly are finance sector employers looking for? And how can you ensure that you are at the top of the list? Here are eight skills that improve employability, together with tips on how to demonstrate them.

Initiative

Managers will expect you to work largely unsupervised on a day-to-day basis, so they need to know you can make responsible decisions on your own that result in a positive outcome. One of the best demonstrations of "taking the initiative" is relevant training and work experience. Undertaking roles or placements, and courses in both core technical subjects and some of the broader skills listed below, provides evidence of your ability to define the requirements of tasks and implement them successfully.

Commercial acumen

Responsible decision-making demands strong commercial acumen, which describes your ability to understand business situations and apply your expertise accordingly. Alongside the technical know-how gained through your core qualifications, you will need to gather a much broader range of relevant knowledge. Your ability to do this can be demonstrated in interviews by researching the wider industry that your potential employer is in, how current affairs affect it, and any other relevant influences and facts.

Professionalism

Employers want evidence that you can deliver projects and tasks reliably, ethically and in a way that adds value to their organisation. The other skills in this article all contribute to professionalism, as do personal standards such as time-keeping, appearance and your ability to treat colleagues with respect.

Innovation

Adding value to an organisation tends to come through seeing new ways to undertake tasks or solve problems. Therefore, look for ways to demonstrate your ability to bring something new to the employer without undermining the fundamental requirements of the profession. Rather than arriving at an interview with speculative ideas that might be off the mark, demonstrate how you were able to add value to something you undertook in the past, particularly in a work role or placement.

Project management

Every task you undertake will have some form of deadline. This might be preparing a document for a weekly meeting, delivering a project to a specific timeframe, or achieving a major initiative in key milestones. Employers will value your ability to plan workloads to meet timescales, and respond to challenging deadlines when the need arises – even if it sometimes means working outside regularly scheduled business hours.

Communication and presentation

Written and oral communication skills are as fundamental to employability as technical qualifications. Naturally, this means paying close attention to the wording of your CV, covering letter and any mock assignments you are asked to prepare. Interviews give employers the chance to assess your presentation skills, so prepare well and rehearse as much as possible. For example, undertake research about common interview questions, and craft answers that demonstrate a range of employability skills without sounding forced. It’s a good idea to find a relevant mentor to help, even if it’s just to provide feedback on what you have prepared.

Teamwork

The ability to work well with colleagues is paramount, and being able to reference team-working examples from work roles or placements will help to demonstrate this. Other activities can also contribute, such as participation in team sports. Acting as a team captain can be particularly appealing to employers as it demonstrates leadership potential for a later point in your career. Employers willing to invest in career development will be looking for candidates that can grow with their organisation.

Networking

Throughout your career, the majority of opportunities will come through relationships with others, making the ability to network an important skill to have. Employment fairs, business events and interviews are all opportunities to expand your network of contacts, and there are many advice websites on how to network effectively. Most important is to remember who you meet. A good tip is to write down a memorable fact about the person on the back of their business card or in a notebook.

Where to get started? Join job board communities like ACCA Careers, volunteer, you can pick up great teamwork and other soft skills that way and stay up to date by reading the business news, joining relevant industry and professional groups on LinkedIn and getting involved with discussions.

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