EMPLOYABILITY 101

Jane: “I’m finally graduating from University and those 4 long arduous years have an end in sight, but will I even find a job?”

Mulenga: “I feel like I have so much more to offer and give the organization, but my position won’t allow to me to. How can I do more?”

Kilu: “I’ve been in this position for the better half of a decade, as the years go by and the world changes, I wonder more and more if I can keep up let alone contribute positively.”

Despite being in significantly different places in their career paths [jungle gyms], Jane, Mulenga and Kilu are all wondering about and questioning their Employability.

Employability is a set of achievements skills, understandings and personal attributes that make an individual more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy. (Yorke 2004). It’s the difference between being good at a subject and being good at doing a job.

What factors can impact employability?

Numerous factors, internal and external, can impact ones’ employability. Although both are mentioned below, it is imperative to remember to work on the internal factors (within your sphere of influence) as opposed to being overwhelmed by the external factors.

  1. The labour market– When labour market conditions are challenging it can become difficult to secure the types of employment that you want. In these conditions there is more emphasis on being employable and maintaining your employability. In times of job market plenty, we are often not as concerned about how employable we are.
  2. Social profile –It is an unfortunate reality that due to a range of societal biases some people can be disadvantaged in finding and maintaining employment. Gender, age, ethnicity, access to higher education, disability or socio-economic status can negatively impact an individual’s ability to get employment.
  3. Attitude –An individual’s ability to cope, be flexible, and be pragmatic in the choices that they make can impact their employability. Being able to re-frame your abilities to be suitable in a range of different roles, organisations and industries is extremely valuable.
  4. Personal Experiences and Attributes – To understand employment in its fullest sense, we need to also recognise that it is possible to be employable in terms of the attributes that you might possess individually, and the experience you have, and yet be underemployed in a job that does not necessarily make use of those skills and attributes.

Employer Expectations

You’ll often hear employers saying that they want ‘well-rounded employees‘. What this means is that they expect you to be more than just your degree and work experience, which means that you need to bring your personal qualities, experiences and other capabilities to the role. The below are some of the other skills employers may look out for in a potential employee.

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Please note that these will greatly vary between industry and organization thus it is imperative to find out what these are in your specific sphere.

What makes an Employable Individual?

  • Knowing which skills and capabilities you have that are important to an employer.
  • Going beyond what you “look like on paper” to understand how your experiences and capabilities can make a difference to the organisation.
  • Having a clear understanding of what a particular profession entails, the culture, the values, the expected standards of behavior, and the general ideology, and being able to align yourself with those expectations in order to operate successfully in the workplace.
  • Being able to articulate your strengths by talking about particular experience to demonstrate your skill development, and negotiating the various aspects of the recruitment process.
  • The ability to re-frame and apply your capabilities to new or different tasks, roles and industries in an increasingly unpredictable work environment.
  • Employers are not convinced that some of the personal attributes that make you an effective employee can be taught in the classroom.  For example, resilience and confidence are best developed through life experiences and having to draw on those qualities in certain situations.
  • You need to go out and experience life but do so being aware that everything that you do is an opportunity to grow and develop the attributes that employers are looking for.

For more on employability look out for Employability 102.

Please note that this article was greatly based on an EDX course Unlocking your Employability, checkout the link take the course yourself.