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Management of self and own performance

Management of self and own performance logo The Association of Graduate Recruiters (the AGR), conducted a survey which outlined the employability skills seen as most important by recruiters and the specific skills where demand is not being met. The ability to manage your own development and career received a significantly high response in the AGR Survey.

- Carl Gilleard, Former AGR Chief Executive attributes this to “a reflection of the pace of change in the world of work and the fact that jobs for life don’t really exist anymore.”

Being able to manage yourself and your own performance is an attribute that employers look for as employees who are well organised, understand their role and are always looking to increase their skills and knowledge through research, training or other means are likely to have a positive effect on their organisation. 

This type of employability skill might also be known as Ongoing Development or Continuous Professional Development but there are a number of ways that a recruiter may ask for it...

What do recruiters want?

  • “We’re looking for people with real intellectual ability, who will keep up to date with the latest industry trends...”
  • “We recruit graduates who show high management potential, who are keen to develop themselves as well as others...”
  • “You will embrace change as an integral part of your success”
  • “Have the passion and self-motivation to succeed...”
  • “Graduates who can respond with pace and energy to new challenges and opportunities...”
  • “Staff who seek opportunities and learn fast...”
  • “A passion for learning and an appetite for knowledge...”

These quotes have been taken from recent advertisements for a variety of graduate jobs. They don’t use the terms ‘ongoing development’ or ‘continuous professional development’ but all these recruiters are asking for the same skill. Organisations, whether public or private sector, want staff who:

  • Want to absorb new thinking and ideas
  • Want to be the best in their field or role, and will put in time and effort to achieve this
  • Seek to continually improve their knowledge, skills and performance by getting involved in a range of learning opportunities
  • Reflect and learn from their work and from their professional and personal experiences
  • Are eager to take on new tasks and to experience different situations
  • Keep their specialist or technical knowledge up to date and are aware of professional developments in their area of expertise
  • Learn fast and make effective use of their learning
  • Are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and have a plan for development

Every organisation wants to get the best out of their staff and the willingness to undergo training and to develop skills is a key component in every job. The University of Bradford for example, requires all its staff to be “committed to the development of self and others” or “committed to continuing personal and professional development” and you are likely to find phrases like this on most job specifications.

Do you have this skill?

Being committed to your ongoing development is as much an attitude of mind, or a behaviour, as it is a skill. The very fact that you have come to University and studied at a high level proves that you have intellectual capabilities and an interest in developing yourself professionally.

Another factor in this is to be self-aware. It is important that you can recognise your own strengths and weaknesses and are prepared to do something about them. Knowing yourself, and understanding your own behaviour in situations, is an important indicator in assessing how open you are to new challenges and how committed you are to personal and professional development.

Personal Development Portfolios (PDPs)

All students are encouraged to have a PDP which highlights their achievements and successes, and gives evidence of their personal and professional development. Many employers also consider it essential for their staff to have a PDP, so starting on one (if you haven’t already done so) would be a good step towards proving your enthusiasm and commitment to learning and developing.

It could help you:

  • Gain a clear idea of your strengths and areas for development.
  • Develop an ability to plan and review all areas of your development, personal and professional.
  • Set yourself goals and devise action plans.
  • Evaluate your progress.
  • Improve your ability to talk about your skills and abilities with prospective employers, and have the evidence to back up your claims.

The Learn Direct website has lots of useful information on skills, work-based and e-learning.

Managing your own development and career

It’s important that you see your career as something that you own, manage and control. The world of work is changing constantly and (as the Association of Graduate Recruiters say) "jobs for life don’t really exist anymore." You have to be able to take control of your own development and make sure that you remain in a position to embrace change and take advantage of opportunities. This is just as important in your personal life as it is in your career.

Understanding yourself - what you are good at, what interests you, what motivates you, what your values are - will help you choose the right career and the right opportunities. Prospects Planner, a guidance tool specifically for Higher Education students, will help you do this. Guidance appointments with Career Development Advisers can also help you with your decision-making and your strategy for achieving your plans.

When you think in this way, it is much easier to set yourself achievable goals. If you are clear about what you want to do (and why), it will be easier to explain to a recruiter, or a boss, your motivations for working, or your interest in developing a specific skill.

A willingness to continually develop your skills is essential and it could bring you many benefits. It can help you to: 

  • achieve your goals - those who plan ahead and improve their skills tend to move up the career ladder
  • keep pace with change - that way you don't get left behind when new technology, or new ways of working, are introduced
  • keep you in the job market - knowing what your next move should be, means you are in a position to recognise relevant opportunities and are proactive in managing your career
  • build a portfolio of evidence of your skills and professional development which is useful when applying for jobs, or for promotion
  • help you identify weaknesses (just as important as identifying strengths!) so you can improve and develop.

Importantly, it will also prove to a recruiter that you are professional in your approach to your career.

How do you prove to a recruiter that you have this skill?

It might be that, for example, you recognised that you needed help with study skills and attended courses or workshops; that you identified that you needed to improve your IT skills so did an evening or online course; that you found maths or numeracy difficult so you took advantage of our Academic Skills courses.

These are just examples drawn from your study. There will be more that you can draw on from your personal or leisure interests. You might have attended evening classes to learn a language or craft, or coaching sessions to improve your sporting abilities, or become expert in a leisure activity, hobby, etc. Most work experience has also involved some training and examples can be drawn from this too, for example time management or customer service training, or health and safety awareness, first aid, etc.

Think about a time when you have realised you needed or wanted to improve something and then took steps to do it.  Then use the STAR technique to write your evidence:

S Define the Situation
T Identify the Task
A Describe your Action
R Explain the Result

This technique is useful at all stages of the selection process so it is worthwhile getting to grips with it. Here's an example:

Define the SITUATION

I started University after my three children reached school age and I felt I had the time and motivation to pursue my career. I had always been interested in Psychology and decided to do this degree course, with the intention of working within education guidance.

Identify the TASK

In my first year, I had no problem with understanding and contributing in class, but it took me a long time to research and write my essays and I felt pressured when faced with deadlines.  It was clear that my IT skills were not up to date or developed enough. 

Describe the ACTION you took or initiated

I asked my tutor for help and he recommended I contact the Academic Skills Advice and the IT Support Centre, both within the University. I attended workshops and seminars on study skills, including electronic searching and essay writing, and attended IT workshops on using Microsoft Office. These sessions were additional to my academic work and some of them were run at weekends and in the evenings. 

Highlight the RESULT you achieved

Although finding the time to do these sessions was difficult with my family commitments, I am so glad I took the initiative. My IT skills are now excellent and I am confident with using Word, Excel and Outlook. The sessions on electronic searching of journals and databases opened up new channels of information for me and they have contributed significantly to my academic success so far.

Write a detailed statement like this, but based on your own experience.  You can then use it for applications and interviews, and also summarise it for use in your CV, for example:

  • Participated in University workshops and seminars to update IT skills and develop effective research techniques.
  • I have a strong interest in developing my skills and have taken advantage of a range of additional seminars and workshops to improve my use of Microsoft Office and develop effective study techniques.

Adapting Your Examples

The example above, for instance, could easily be altered to prove adaptability and flexibility or problem solving and decision making. It is worthwhile spending time writing statements like this about all your experiences and then adapting them to match each recruiter's specific requirements.

Other resources

We run regular workshops on employability skills, and you can book an appointment with one of our advisers to discuss how to improve your employability in relation to your career choices. Call us today on 01274 234991 or come in to Careers reception.

Other relevant websites with general information on skills are:

  • Prospects – features articles on skills and how to evidence them.
  • TARGETjobs – has details on essential skills and competencies.
  • Inside Careers - has advice on skills related to specific graduate professions.