Employability Skills

Employability skills are a set of broad, transferable abilities that will help you contribute effectively and successfully in the workplace, regardless of your chosen industry or discipline, or your eventual role. 

They’re highly valued by employers, and you can be sure they’ll look for evidence of them when hiring. Below are the key employability skills you’ll need to develop, along with some handy tips on how to go about it.

Many of these employability skills are also graduate attributes which are embedded in your courses. Read your course learning outcomes to understand how you develop these skills through your studies.

Use our online Employability and Career Skills tool to assess your employability skills and access a variety of online skill development courses.

  • Creative and critical thinking

    Creativity is the capacity to act and build from the imagination. Another useful way to think of it is the process of conceiving your own, original solutions to problems, or ways of achieving objectives.

    It’s naturally associated with artistic pursuits, and is well recognised in architecture, trade work and all forms of design. But in truth, creativity can be applied in all professions and aspects of life. At its core, it’s a mindset.

    Critical thinking—the ability to analyse ideas, information and situations to form an independent judgement—is creativity’s perfect match. It enables you to consider the products of your creativity, or your colleagues’, and make a sound, reasoned decision about whether, and how, to proceed.

    All our degrees foster this ability. But you would be wise not to rely on study alone. You should actively develop your critical thinking skills throughout your life and apply them daily.

    Complement your creativity with critical thinking and you’ll not only be able to offer your employers plenty of original ideas, but help them identify the right ones to follow.

  • Problem-solving

    The outcome of many situations in professional (and personal) life depend on the ability to think critically about issues and come up with proactive solutions.

    Strength in problem-solving comes from:

    • taking both rational and creative approaches to a problem.
    • clearly defining an issue before identifying and implementing a solution.
    • the ability to foresee and evaluate likely outcomes.
    • considering the ‘big picture’ and assessing many points of view.

    Throughout your studies you will be developing your problem-solving skills in every course that you take. Your degree will help you become an effective problem-solver, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.

    To develop your problem-solving skills you could also try:

    • participating in industry projects throughout your degree.
    • taking a risk management course.
  • Teamwork

    Working in teams is an integral part of everyday life in the modern workforce. Throughout your degree you’ll get plenty of exposure to teamwork, but you’ll also benefit greatly from involving yourself in additional team situations outside of study.

    Having good teamwork skills includes:

    • working well with others.
    • adapting constructively to situations.
    • ensuring clear understanding of responsibilities and tasks.
    • being appropriately assertive and conscientious.

    To develop your teamwork skills you could try:

    • bringing your ‘A game’ to group assignments.
    • joining a competitive sports team.
    • participating in paid employment within a team.
    • volunteer for a non-profit organisation.
  • Communication

    All forms of communication are important—verbal, written and body language. And remember, it’s not just about the way you’re expressing yourself. How you interpret and respond to others’ communication with you is just as important.

    Well-developed communication skills involve the ability to:

    • listen and understand.
    • speak clearly with an appropriate tone.
    • write clearly and appropriately for different audiences and in different contexts.

    To develop your communication skills you could try:

    • giving an oral presentation in class.
    • taking the initiative in talking to others.
    • writing an effective essay or report.
    • attending networking events and meeting new people.
    • joining Toastmasters
    • joining a University Club Committee.
  • Leadership

    Leadership skills encompass not only your capacity to take on positions of authority, but to understand the nature of leadership and how to apply its principles. This will enable you to positively influence others in the pursuit of goals whether you’re formally leading or working alongside them.

    Leadership qualities include:

    • serving as an inspiration and/or motivator for others.
    • influencing and empowering others toward achieving individual or team goals.
    • working in a collaborative way to achieve outcomes based on group consensus.

    To develop your leadership skills you could try:

  • Cultural intelligence

    Cultural intelligence is the ability to understand and interact with people of diverse and differing backgrounds, whether national, ethnic, organisational, generational or other. Its contributing qualities include:

    • understanding personal and cultural differences.
    • being willing to learn about other cultures.
    • taking an open-minded approach to new and different points of view.
    • the ability to function efficiently in a variety of cultural contexts.

    To develop your cultural intelligence you could try:

  • Digital capabilities

    Digital capabilities are embedded into your courses at the University of Adelaide. They are an essential skill set for living, learning, and working effectively in our fast-moving and increasingly digital society.

    Using technology proficiently is part of being digital capable, but it’s much more than this. A digitally capable person will also be able to:

    • transfer skills and knowledge of current technologies to new technologies.
    • ensure security of personal and research data.
    • respect others when communicating online.
    • participate in digital teams and develop digital networks.
    • interpret data, run reports and complete data analysis.
    • keep a balance between real world and digital interactions.

    To develop your digital capabilities you could try:

    • using EndNote or other reference management software.
    • creating a podcast or wiki.
    • learning how to code (e.g. create an app).
    • contribute in online forums about a topic of interest.
  • Self-management

    It’s very important to be able to manage yourself. Many jobs require some degree of autonomous work, so being able to demonstrate proficiency in self-management is critical. Effective self-management requires:

    • understanding your own thought processes and feelings.
    • the ability to critically evaluate yourself and understand your strengths and weaknesses.
    • preparedness to take on responsibility.
    • a high level of accountability.

    To develop your self-management skills you could try:

    • starting your own business.
    • setting yourself a deadline to create something—and sticking to it.
    • applying yourself to your studies and completing your assessments on time.
  • Emotional intelligence

    Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor and understand emotions—in yourself and others—and use this information to guide your approaches to, and behaviour in, different situations with different people. It’s highly important for any interpersonal situation; whether you’re interacting with workplace colleagues, family or friends.

    Signs of emotional intelligence include:

    • the ability to recognise emotions in others and respond accordingly.
    • effectively and appropriately relating to others in various situations.
    • understanding and controlling your own emotions.

    To develop your emotional intelligence you could try:

    • becoming a Peer Mentor or Student Ambassador at the University.
    • working or volunteering in roles that involve working with others.
    • participating in the Career Access Mentoring program.
  • Resilience

    Resilience—the ability to carry on in the face of setbacks—is an invaluable quality in all facets of life. You can show resilience in a number of ways, including:

    • listening carefully, and responding positively, to constructive criticism.
    • continuing to work towards your goals despite setbacks.
    • seeking guidance when required.

    To develop your resilience you could try:

    • speaking or performing (e.g. theatre, music) in front of a crowd.
    • learning a new skill (e.g. a sport, artform, coding).
    • getting involved in volunteering and extra-curricular activities.
  • Initiative and enterprise

    Your ability to take the initiative and capitalise on opportunity is important in the professional world. High competency in this area will enable you to be more successful in your career. Characteristics associated with enterprise and initiative-taking include:

    • adaptability.
    • creative thinking.
    • the ability to create and execute plans.
    • the ability to identify opportunities.
    • an innovative mindset.

    To develop your initiative and enterprise you could try:

  • Planning and organisation

    Your ability to plan and organise is important in all aspects of life—professional and personal. The more you develop this skill, the better you’ll be able to manage your affairs. Qualities associated with strong planning and organisation skills include:

    • effective time management.
    • the ability to set SMART objectives.
    • a strong sense of accountability.
    • the ability to delegate.

    To develop your planning and organisation skills you could try:

Under build my employability, you'll find more ideas for study and extra-curricular activities to enhance your employability at the University of Adelaide.