Quite often when this topic is discussed, it’s from the viewpoint of senior leaders and management discussing the skills they feel are lacking; but does their view match what young professionals are experiencing? What skills do they believe are the most beneficial to have when starting a career? We asked Daniel Kinnaird, Cyber Security Specialist Graduate at National Grid to talk us through his experience and give us his top three universal skills to set a path to success:
1. Management skills
One thing that our educational system is brilliant at, is encouraging group learning and working as part of a team. The social skills you learn whilst doing this are invaluable and have been spoken about at great length. However, one of the greatest benefits to come from this is enhancing your project management skills.
Working with others and considering your role within the wider setting of the organisation is vital when you start work, so the earlier you can begin to develop these project management skills, the greater opportunities this will provide you. The more projects you can involve yourself in and look to contribute to, the better.
It could be worth assessing yourself on your project skills at the beginning and again at the end to get an awareness of your strengths and where your development areas are.
2. Stakeholder engagement
Stakeholder engagement is a great skill to develop. Knowing how to communicate complex information in a user-friendly way will benefit you in interviews as well as making you more efficient at work.
No matter what you are doing, there will be at least one key stakeholder to communicate with. For students, your final dissertation / project will likely have a supervisor, who is a key stakeholder in your project, and you should consciously think about how to make the relationship as useful as possible.
For those already in work, your relationship with your line manager is key. If you can comfortably and efficiently communicate the work you’re doing and the benefit that it’s having on the business, you are more likely to be trusted with and engaged in larger projects, raising your profile and creating greater opportunities for development.
The last skill I want to talk about is analysis. Having good analytical skills will prove to be extremely useful by finding better ways to complete tasks and being able to digest and simplify complex information, producing produce work that provides a higher benefit than it otherwise would.
As the power of data becomes better understood and used within organisations, those that have the ability to take complex data sets, analyse and produce next-steps will be better placed to grow in their careers.
Don’t be put off by analytics either. It’s not about the maths, it’s about being able to spot patterns and opportunities from the data you’re presented and not being afraid to trust your judgement.
By learning and developing these soft-skills and adding them to your technical arsenal, you’ll be in a great place. For instance, as part of the graduate scheme, I spent time in our robotic process automation team. The role involved developing virtual robots that would complete the tasks of humans. Each robot was an agile software development project which took a few weeks to complete. I came to the role with experience in software development, but really struggled to complete the projects on time and to a high standard.
Over the course of the placement, I got significantly better at my job; not because I got better at developing software, but almost entirely because I got better at stakeholder engagement and analysing information. By anticipating the problems customers might have, I could prevent the problems from happening in the first place. The benefits of becoming proactive instead of reactive made me a much better developer.
Again, I want to stress that the technical skills that you’ll have picked up over the course of your degree are extremely important - but thinking about your non-technical skills now, will set you apart in interviews / assessment centres and prove to be a massive benefit to you in the future.
How BCS can help
If you’re looking to develop your own skill-set or understand further where you are in your career and the paths and opportunities available to you, use BCS tools.
Try the SFIAplus self-assessment platform and the vast amount of information available in Springboard, both available to BCS members to help you understand your potential and develop the skills needed to progress.
Membership with BCS can cost as little as £20 per year for students and apprentices. To learn more and become a member, please visit bcs.org/membership.