Hey, you are multiskilled!

13.11.2017

Graduates of the University of Helsinki still find employment well, but individual responsibility in maintaining the relevance of their career skills has increased. We can predict that artificial intelligence and telerobotics will gain ground in specialist professions, too, and competition among higher education graduates will become fiercer. Career paths are also more varied than before. According to a report by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, one in three workers have changed fields between two and four times. 

Perhaps it is simply wrong to talk about an individual’s career when we could refer to their careers instead.

The Student Union organised a career event called Market for the Multiskilled in the autumn for students of generalist fields. The event included discussion on what kind of skills a university degree gives you and how you can best use them in working life. The tips that came up in the panel discussion can be condensed into five universal instructions that will almost guarantee your success on the job market.

1) Verbalise your skills. A degree certificate in itself does not disclose your real skills. Analytical thinking and information retrieval skills are bound to develop during your studies, but you should not forget the various project management skills, stress management and group work skills either. Extracurricular activities also have their own relevance: if you have acted as a treasurer in a hobby association for wine enthusiasts, for instance, you have acquired valuable financial management skills that are useful in working life as well. However, these skills will not help you if you do not recognise them yourself.

2) Practise your interpersonal skills. The ability to get along with people is just as important as academic substance knowledge. Acting in a work community requires negotiation skills, the skill to convince others and an eye for social situations. Empathy is also an important skill in working life: conflict-solving skills and the ability to take action against bullying that you have learned in student communities are important at the workplace, too. Good interpersonal skills do not, however, require you to be super social.

3) Be active. Internships or writing a commissioned thesis might be ideal ways to get your foot in the door with an employer. Employers rarely expect new employees to be perfectly skilled workers in their own field straight away. The right attitude and the ability to commit to the tasks you start are more important.

4) Discover surprising career paths. You should not regard the skills produced by your own degree too narrowly. Gaming companies do not need only coders, they also need storytelling folklorists. An in-depth understanding of evolutionary biology could be a beneficial addition to communication skills in journalism. When you can identify your own skills and the diverse contexts for using them, you can build yourself an individualised career.

5) Continue learning. Graduating from the university is not the ending point for learning. The most important skill you can learn at a university is the ability to learn new things. People already in the working life will also have to constantly update their skills and acquire new ones. This might mean new study modules or degrees, but it might just as well mean autonomous learning alongside work.

Heikki Isotalo
Specialist, educational policy and working life

Sitra’s report: Working life study 2017 https://media.sitra.fi/2017/05/16144238/Sitra-Ty%C3%B6el%C3%A4m%C3%A4n-tutkimus-2017-FINAL_sitrafi_PDF.pdf (in Finnish)
Huffington Post: Forget A.I. ‘Remote Intelligence’ Will Be Much More Disruptive https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/telerobotics_us_5873bb48e4b02b5f858a1579

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