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5 professional skills  every graduate needs  

By Chloe Lane

Updated May 18, 2022 Updated May 18, 2022

Sponsored by Sunway University  

If you’re looking to secure a high-paying job in a prestigious company, you’ll need more than just good grades. Increasingly, employers are looking for graduates with a strong professional skillset, which will allow them to thrive in their new role from the start. 

TopUniversities spoke with the vice chancellor of Sunway University in Malaysia, Professor Graeme Wilkinson, about the five professional skills graduates need to be successful in their career and how to strengthen these skills at university. 

Core professional skills 

When applying for jobs, graduates will be asked to demonstrate that they have developed a set of core competencies. These include skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, time management and effective communication and can often be learned in your degree programme or while on a professional placement. 

One of Malaysia’s leading private universities, Sunway University offers a wide range of industry, business, science and technology programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. These programmes have been developed to help build these core competencies. 

“Our curricula have all been designed with professional skills embedded within them. All students get to experience teamwork and undertake extensive problem-solving and critical analysis as well as doing presentations as part of their academic courses,” said Wilkinson. 

Aside from their degree, Sunway University students and graduates will have the opportunity to take micro-credentials to help strengthen their professional skillset.  

“Education and preparation for life does not end at the campus gate when students finally exit after graduation. The concept of lifelong learning is now an old one, but it is something that’s becoming even more necessary as time goes on,” says Wilkinson. 

Personal attributes  

While graduates are often tested on the core professional skills, the importance of personal attributes such as flexibility, self-confidence, resilience and a positive attitude should not be overlooked.  

These attributes will be naturally picked up at university, through working with others on group projects, taking on roles in student societies, volunteering or in part-time jobs.  

Wilkinson says that, for many students, the COVID-19 pandemic helped to build these personal attributes. 

He said: “Resilience and flexibility are attributes that most students have acquired unexpectedly through the COVID-19 pandemic, with their modes of learning having shifted dramatically in a very short time.  

“The vast majority of students coped very well and if the tragedy of the pandemic has a silver lining it is in the fact that many young people have learned to become more resilient as a result of it.” 

Entrepreneurial skills  

Entrepreneurial skills are becoming increasingly sought after in many businesses, particularly in fast-growing industries where innovation is highly valued. Despite this, the most recent QS Global Skills Gap Report reveals that many university graduates are missing the entrepreneurial skills needed for today’s workplace.  

If you attend an entrepreneurship-focused university or business school, these skills will often be threaded throughout the curriculum, either through the inclusion of real-life case studies or even by partnering with companies to help with certain projects. 

“At Sunway University we provide students with opportunities to develop entrepreneurial skills and even to become entrepreneurs through our Sunway Innovation Lab (iLab),” said Wilkinson.  

“Sunway iLabs provide essential training and run accelerator programmes led by innovation experts to help students get business ideas off the ground.” 

These labs help students and graduates get their start-up companies off the ground to become globally successful businesses, using the structured startup accelerator programme.  

Sustainability-focused mindset 

Sustainability is a key focus in any industry and employers are looking to hire graduates who keep sustainability in mind when approaching problems. 

Sunway University is committed to championing sustainability efforts, both within and around campus. The school’s Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development and its Centre for Planetary Health both help to ensure high standards for sustainability research, sustainable practices and sustainable consumption.  

“Our ongoing ‘Campus with A Conscience’ campaign engages students directly in sustainability activities as part of their overall campus experience,” said Wilkinson. 

Networking  

By building a professional network, you can strengthen your industry connections, uncover new ideas and fresh perspectives and learn about new job opportunities in your chosen industry.  

Wilkinson said: “For new graduates, constructing their networks is one of the most important things they can do to help themselves in the early stages of their careers.  

“This has to begin at university. It is really important as many traditional jobs are disappearing and more flexible working ‘portfolio careers’ will become the norm for many graduates.” 

Sunway University encourages students to start building their personal brand, by creating profiles on social media platforms such as LinkedIn.  

Additionally, like many prestigious universities, Sunway University prides itself on its active alumni network. The university frequently hosts networking events to help current students connect with alumni around the world.  

Current students in their penultimate and final year can also benefit from the university’s alumni mentoring scheme. Under the scheme, alumni who are working in industry will offer one-to-one advice and mentoring about careers, applications and interviews.   

“Many alumni really value the experience and the opportunity to give back through helping students improve their understanding of work and what to expect in their first jobs,” said Wilkinson.  

“This helps in maximising our graduate employability rate as well as the retention rate of graduates with their early employer.” 

This article was originally published in May 2022 .

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Written by

As Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Chloe creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. Chloe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK.