LEAVING university with a good degree is an indisputable pre-requisite in the graduate employment market. But this alone is not enough to secure your first job.

Optimally, the skills, competencies and abilities you develop during your university years and the experiences you gain from industrial attachments and temporary jobs will help to give you an edge over the next candidate.

In a highly competitive employment landscape where fresh graduates are finding their job search challenging, employers are seeking candidates who can hit the ground running.

It is essential to not just bury your head in your books while you are in university, but to continue to develop your interests beyond the academic and acquire some work experience.

This will help to enrich your life and your resum�. Many graduating students are so focused on academic results they often overlook enriching their life beyond lectures and assignments.

Employability skills are more important to some organisations and employers than the specific occupational, technical or academic knowledge and skills associated with the graduate’s degree. The desired skills for today’s fresh graduates fall into four broad areas: self-reliance, people, general employment and specialist skills.

1. Self-reliance skills

These skills include self-awareness and being proactive. Employers usually want to know how purposeful and focused the candidate is. They want to discover his beliefs as well as how realistic his career expectations and goals are.

Being proactive includes having resourcefulness, drive and self-reliance. Among the gamut of self-reliance skills, employers are also looking into the graduate’s ability to market themselves modestly in a positive but persistent manner. The ability to network and be an astute decision-maker is another quality that distinguishes good candidates.

2. People skills

In the people skills arena, employers want to know whether the candidate has worked in a shop, supermarket or restaurant, engaged in fund-raising activities for charity, or participated regularly in voluntary work.

These are front-line work areas where individuals are likely to develop people skills. Being a member of an orchestra, participating in a team sport or having a leadership role are also good indicators of people skills.

In essence, employers try to determine whether the candidate has engaged in activities that have helped to develop his interpersonal skills, effective communication competencies and leadership abilities. They are seeking candidates with customer-centric attitudes who demonstrate a friendly and caring attitude, and can handle difficult situations diplomatically. Employers also want candidates who are comfortable with diversity associated with globalisation and multi-ethnic workforces.

3. Other skills

Of course, general business skills like problem-solving, flexibility, business acumen, computer and numerate literacy, and commitment are desired personal skills. Candidates who are versatile, willing and multi-skilled definitely have an advantage. However, specific occupational skills and specialist relevant knowledge are equally important in certain occupations.

Many employers also prefer graduates who have gained practical work experience and have a better idea about what the world of work has in store for them. Employers are also looking for personal qualities in fresh graduates that include cultural intelligence and an ability to connect with colleagues and partners who are a generation older than them.

According to some employers, completing an internship, industrial attachment or a community project in an under-developed country remains the useful road to the improvement of workplace soft skills for graduates.

Your degree is no longer enough to land you a job. You will have to demonstrate that you are work-ready, willing to put in hard work and not fearful of challenging tasks.

Can you prove all this and more in an effective resum�? Will you be able to demonstrate to and persuade a potential employer that you have what it takes to succeed in their business? Will you be able to live up to the promise of being a well-rounded employee in your first six months at work?

Consider these issues, then try and fill the gaps in your resum�. Seek the help and advice of career counsellors or friends who have work experience. With some effort and a positive attitude, you will boost your ability to find the job you want.