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Your Masters: Skills gained


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Why do I need to identify my skills?

Studying for a degree requires intellectual ability and motivation but completion of a Masters requires more commitment and capability, with the course often proving extremely intensive. These attributes are often very appealing to employers and may give you an advantage in the competitive employment market.

Employers value transferable skills as well as more technical and vocational skills gained through specific Masters study. If the role is specifically related to your Masters qualification, it is essential that you highlight your relevant experience.

Many employers use competency-based assessment criteria to select candidates. Certain skills are identified and it is up to the candidate to show they have those skills. CVs and application forms offer the opportunity to supply evidence of the strengths and skills that are required in the role.

Interviews are designed also to find out whether you have the skills required of the job. Typical questions include: ‘Tell me about a time when you worked as a member of a team’ and ‘Tell me about a challenging work situation - how did you respond?’ These questions are designed to test competencies, including teamwork, problem-solving and action planning. It is important that you have identified your skills beforehand so you can link them to the relevant questions.

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What skills do I have?

Studying for a Masters develops a range of skills including:

  • critical and analytical thinking;
  • planning and organisation;
  • research methods - particularly with Masters by research courses but also through data collection and analysis for dissertations;
  • time management - Masters qualifications can be extremely intensive requiring you to balance coursework deadlines and manage your self-study;
  • project management;
  • advanced IT skills;
  • presentation skills - to peers and/or external colleagues;
  • group/teamworking skills - both leading and being part of team projects.
‘My MA taught me about the development of my own theories and findings and to conduct more in-depth research. It was hard at first, going from being a relatively spoon-fed undergraduate, to being fully responsible for virtually all of my own learning. In the end, though, it’s worth it because it helped me to trust my own judgement and have more faith in my own theories.’

Jeanie, MA English Literary Studies

Masters graduates gain skills through their first degree that are then enhanced and consolidated through postgraduate study. To effectively understand the skills you have you should start with a skills audit. This is a self-reflective process that enables you to identify your skills and strengths. When doing the skills audit consider:

  • your present studies;
  • key projects;
  • other qualifications, both academic and vocational;
  • past and present work experience, paid and unpaid;
  • responsibilities and achievements in leisure activities.

Think about the skills you have gained through each of these and what your level of competency is. This process will help to highlight skills that you have and may make you realise you have more than you first thought.

For examples of skill-based CVs and more information about CVs and application forms see applications, CVs and interviews. For information and advice about interview preparation, see interview tips.

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Marketing your Masters to employers

Employers value qualifications as well as skills and experience, and it is essential that you demonstrate how your Masters can be of use in the particular job you are applying for. Your Masters will have provided you with specific specialised skills that may be of particular relevance to the job area. There will also be transferable skills picked up from the Masters course that will be an asset. Make sure all of these are clearly conveyed in your CV and covering letter. Be sure to link skills achieved in your Masters to those required in the job advert, as in this covering letter in response to the advert below.

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Example job advert

Retail Associate

Have you just graduated? Are you looking for a chance to move into retail?

Our retail team predicts the styles that our customers will want, by analysing sales, monitoring stock figures and keeping abreast of the market. As Retail Associate, you will be a key team member, providing accurate and timely stock and sales information. Working within a proactive and progressive team, your aim will be to maximise sales and deliver good customer service.

An ideal start to a retail career, this post will provide experience in sales analysis as well as other aspects of retail. You'll also provide administrative support to your department and work closely with suppliers. This role has scope to evolve, giving more responsibility and career progression in response to successfully hitting targets, ensuring that sales figures meet (and preferably exceed) expectations.

We want applicants with strong analytical and numerical skills, some commercial knowledge and the ability to thrive in a fast moving environment.

Flexibility is crucial as are good communication skills, attention to detail and a willingness to learn.

If this sounds like you, send your CV to Mr Ben Smith, our HR Manager. Click here for details of how to apply.


Written by higher education careers professionals

Date:  Spring 2010 

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