What skills do graduates need to show in 2018?

In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, it may have felt a bit unnerving for university students graduating into a politically uncertain climate.

Students are understandably keen to know what they can do to differentiate themselves from the competition, and one of the most common questions I get asked by graduate job seekers is “What exactly are employers looking for in their hires?”

As a corporate graduate recruiter, I saw my fair share of good (and not so good) candidates from all sorts of degree disciplines.

There are a huge range of different skills and attributes that employers look for across industries.

Here are 3 of the most important attributes I believe all graduates need to demonstrate in 2018:

Motivation for the role/industry

It’s crucial for prospective hires to have a keen interest in the area they are seeking to go into. As a fresh graduate, employers recognise that there is lots to learn and much that can be taught. Without a fundamental interest and intellectual curiosity for the area which they have applied, it can be tricky to convince an employer that you have what it takes to go far. Commitment is important, and there are lots of ways you can show this, even if you are applying to an industry you haven’t studied at university or worked in before.

Get involved in societies and networks that mirror your interests. Many finance, law and business societies are not just aimed at people that are or have studied those subjects. There may be relevant networking events, guest lectures, and competitions that develop your knowledge and motivation in key areas.

Try and expose yourself to your industry of choice as much as you can, and reflect on what specifically interests you about it. Employers aren’t looking for word-perfect or text book reasons for your motivation, so reflect on how your chosen career path aligns with your own interests, values, and preferences.

Commercial awareness

Most graduate programmes invest a fair amount of resource into their hires, hoping they soon deliver that value back into this business. Commercial success is important for organisations, and having a business mind and general commercial awareness contribute to an organisation’s success.

Commercial awareness can be developed during and after university by engaging in relevant conversations and activities. You could run the finances for a university society, or follow your industry’s financial news through blogs and social media. Find a way of processing commercial information that is convenient and interesting to you.

Have conversations with as many people as you can that are involved in your industry, and be curious, attentive and proactive in your relationships. For more advice on building connections, read my blog post on networking.

Exploring the commercial elements within your chosen industry will help refine your interest and will come in handy in interviews to demonstrate your interest in the subject.


Over the past few years, resilience has emerged as an increasingly important quality for graduate recruits to have. Joining the world of work can be tough and a bit of a culture shock for many students experiencing the business world for the first time. It has never been more important for new hires to bounce back quickly from challenges, and learn from mistakes quickly.

Knowing how you solve problems and deal with adversity is a great quality, and can mean students are better equipped at handling what comes their way in a corporate setting. Students can reflect on their strengths, weaknesses, and how they have approached problems in the past. They should also try pushing their comfort zone with new experiences while studying, while always reflecting on what they are learning and what skills they are gaining.

Content originally published on MyPlus Students Club

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