Reflecting for employability
A key element of being successful in today’s society is building your employability. Reflection is an essential part of this process.
Reflection is a skill that can serve you well throughout life. It can benefit you while being educated, developing while working, and it can support you with entrepreneurship and building up your general ability to get employed and be adaptable and successful, i.e. your employability.
What is employability
Employability is ‘a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy. (Yorke, 2004, page 21).
A common misconception about employability is that it is the same as being employed and getting a job, or that having high levels of employability will guarantee you a job. As is it clear from the definition, employability is more an ongoing state of being capable to exist and build success in job market.
To get even clearer on employability see the University’s employability website.
Employability (within the University website)
Reflection is essential for building employability
Developing employability often means using reflection to make the most of experiences – these can be from university courses, work (full-time or part-time), interests, volunteering, or caring responsibilities.
Reflection can help you to identify what skills you have utilised and developed through these experiences and build your sense of self-awareness. An important aspect of employability arises when you manage to combine all your experiences, your skills, and self-awareness into a story that is explicit to you and that you can effectively and positively communicate to others.
Reflection will help you to surface otherwise unknown elements of your employability story
One element common to both employability and reflection is the idea of drawing out learning, development, and abilities that would otherwise have remained unrecognised and unknown. Reflection is often identified as the mechanism for making the implicit explicit to ourselves.
For instance, when working you might often have to rely on effective interpersonal communication when engaging with customers/clients, and may have on multiple occasions had to deescalate building conflict. People in those situations sometimes fail to identify ‘conflict management’ as one of their skills, and often do not recognise such experiences as examples of effective interpersonal skills, even when asked in job interviews.
Reflection would in that situation help you to identify your strengths and become aware about how to weave them with specific examples into your employability story.
Ways reflection can help with your employability
Reflection can help you to:
- identify the type of experiences and abilities you already have and those you are likely to need to become more employable
- identify your strengths and weaknesses and find specific situations where you have deployed them such that you can effectively communicate them to others.
- track your improvement of skills you want to develop and need for succeeding in your chosen careers
- make informed decisions about what you think success is and looks like to you personally
- identify things that you find stressful and how to deal with them – this way building resilience, a key ingredient to effective and long-term employability.
Moreover, the University have developed a series of Graduate Attributes, which have been identified to support your employability. By reflecting on and ensuring that you are developing these key attributes, you are likely to get an edge around employability.
University of Edinburgh’s Graduate Attributes (within the University website)
Using the Reflectors’ Toolkit to build employability through reflection
You can use different elements of the Reflectors’ Toolkit to build and strengthen your employability. Key sections are reflecting on experiences, reflecting on goals and objectives, building a reflective habit, and building self-awareness through reflection. Developing these will contribute to your success.
- Reflecting on experiences will help you to identify learning and build an understanding and knowledge base of how you act in a range of situations – this will be valuable when communicating about your past experiences in the job market, and give you a range of situations to draw strategies from.
- Reflecting on goals and objectives will help you track development of skills as well as of progression towards what you want in life – this will help you both communicate about and develop skills that are required to succeed in different careers.
- Building a reflective habit makes you able to quickly identify successes and mistakes and allows you to fix them immediately – a valuable skill in any profession.
- Increased self-awareness can ensure that you are navigating the job market in a way which aligns with who you are and who you want to be – especially defining what success looks like for you, becoming aware of your strengths and weakness, your values, and developing an ability to set reflective goals can make you successful.
Specific things to reflect on for employability
- It can be extremely helpful to routinely reflect on what skills you have developed over the last week/month/year and how you will be able to evidence these skills with examples.
- To identify the skills that are required in the sector you want to end up in and start developing these by setting goals and objectives.
- Reflect on how you deal with challenges and how you can improve your approach.
- Reflect on the range of experiences you have and find ways to expand this range.
- Ensure you reflect and find value in the things you do regularly. Often people forget that the things they find easy/or do frequently actually require a lot of skill.
Ensure that you don’t neglect learning
Some people might think that working part-time jobs in bars/grocery stores or being active with hobbies do not build their employability. The reality is that when a reflective mindset is adopted, you will be able to find value and learning in most situations – and realise that all your experiences help to build your unique employability story.