Fast Track: How to get what it takes

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The Independent Culture
So you've got the academic qualifications in the bag, now what about those "other skills" prospective employers want? Ensuring you build up relevant experience to demonstrate these abilities - and communicating this effectively - is as important as a good degree. It's never too early to start developing these "softer" skills, according to Anne-Marie Martin, director of the University of London careers service: "You don't have to be a goody two shoes - it's about getting involved in something beyond academic work."

n Writing an essay the night before it is due does not necessarily a "good communicator" make. Pay closer attention to your writing skills. No one can expect you to effortlessly switch from academic to professional report writing overnight, but be aware of the need for objectivity. Application letters and forms will probably be your first introduction to this. Be brief but specific.

n Ability to learn new material quickly and efficiently is high on the Nineties employer's wish list. Proof you can pick up skills beyond your degree's academic requirements will always go down well. Extra curricular activities are a useful way of demonstrating this, and hone team working ability, practical problem-solving skills and self management.

n Another option is volunteering for charity work. Even a couple of hours a week will expand your horizons beyond campus life and prove you are both motivated and resourceful.

n Most students already take on holiday jobs, of course. Consider more carefully, however, the type of work you do. Wherever possible avoid bar and restaurant work in favour of work experience in an office environment. Remember, if you want an early insight into the realities of everyday working life, nothing beats practical experience.

The good news is that given the chance, most graduates will find they have these skills already. "If you don't put yourself to the test, you won't know these abilities are there," Ms Martin says.