It was interesting yesterday at TEDx Salford to see so many young people (undergrads, postgrads, budding entrepreneurs) soaking up the atmosphere created by 1500 delegates and a host of wonderful speakers.
TED is always an inspiring experience and no doubt delegates were hatching plans and envisioning success in their field. But outside the Lowry is a real world where young people are under tremendous pressure to compete with other graduates and somehow get noticed. It’s not enough now to have good qualifications or to have attended a ‘red brick’ university. Employers are looking for ‘stand out’ skills.
MojoLife recently commissioned research into student employability skills. Conducted by MBS Masters programme intern, Yilin Zhu, it highlighted the importance of the ‘softer’ skills, such as adaptability, creativity and the ability to communicate well. Employers are also looking for the right attitude and seek evidence of reliability, professionalism, pride in one’s work and commitment.
But how do graduates actually CONVEY these qualities? And what more can universities do to support students in the development of such attributes and improve their employability rating?
Some of the answers emerged yesterday in the Lowry.
Pulling together an event of this scale was quite a coup and testament to the hard work of ALL the TEDx Salford team. In orchestrating such an event, Mishal (right) and Uzair Butt have shown a form of leadership which is much prized by employers. To do what they’ve done requires vision, determination, attention to detail, the ability to collaborate, sell and a huge amount of hard work. They don’t need to ‘claim’ these qualities on their CV – their leadership of the TEDx event shows what they’re made of.
As Salford clearly demonstrated, universities and student unions can and should support student employability by encouraging such endeavours. When young people exhibit this form of ‘self-leadership’ it speaks volumes for their skills and attitudes.
And remember, leadership is available to all of us, especially in the social media age. As John Robb reminded us, it’s up to US to create change! (Take a look at these young people interviewed on MojoLife TV – Rachel Flanders and Tania Mahmoud – Tania now working at The Lowry!).
Listening to Ken Shamrock and Etienne Stott yesterday, we were struck by how important it is to share one’s story. We’ve all got those things in our locker. The trick is to recognise them and learn to tell them in anecdotal form.
But you need to do more – it’s all very well to relate what happened when you’re telling a story, but it’s much harder to extract some deeper meaning or learning from the experience. Very often this is introduced by phrases like, “Looking back, what I realised was…” or “What these things had in common was…” or “Over the years I’ve come to realise that…” The stories need to feed a broader point, about what you learned and how it’s made you a better, more rounded person. In interviews, presentations or conversations it’s essential you form that bridge between the facts and the meaning.
Take a peek at this talk we gave at TEDxChange on the power of stories as an agent of change.
Telling the story of YOU
Like you, we’ve drawn inspiration from TED talks over the years and marvelled at the clever inventions and thinking of some of the geniuses on display. But it’s the real-life stories that seem to connect with people on a deeper, more personal level. They connect because they touch something inside us. We can relate to them as human beings and that’s why it’s important for graduates (and business people) to develop their own story ‘vault’ and their storytelling skills. These things help you stand out and display your distinctive qualities, a crucial thing in an age when everyone seems to possess great qualifications. Remember, there’s only one of you – YOU are your Unique Selling Point (USP)!
Getting up on stage
During the break yesterday, several audience members got up on stage and had their photo taken by the TED sign (or was it the fallen ‘R’?). But it’s interesting to wonder how many people actually wanted to get up on stage and share their own stories or ideas. The ability to speak well in public is one the most valuable skills you’ll ever develop. Anyone wanting to progress to leadership level will be expected to rally the troops or persuade people from a platform. So consider what you would talk about if you got the call to speak at TED. And promise yourself to develop the art of effective public speaking!
Helping graduates to stand out
To support students in developing employability skills universities need to go beyond the nuts and bolts of the job application process and interview techniques. They need to help them craft and deliver a compelling story about who they are, what they offer and where they want to go. Graduates need to become confident and effective storytellers. As Geoff Burch would put it, they need to ‘sell themselves’ – as interviewees, presenters, networkers or social media commentators.
Otherwise, like Geoff’s ropey sheep dogs, they’ll get people “very interested” but never actually crossing the final line!
If you’re interested in developing your story and your speaking skills, click here.