University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Expert: Your skills will get you a job, not academic titles

Students should focus on adding tangible value to businesses, suggests senior career advisor

Career Day, the nation-wide job fair involving over 150 companies, kicks off 11 March. Hosted by Copenhagen’s DGI-byen, hundreds of hopeful graduates will flood through the venue, all keen to nab top positions with the likes of Maersk, Google and Deloitte. But how many of them are really aware of what it takes to bag their dream role?

Steen Vive, Senior Advisor at Djøf, the trade union for Lawyers and Economists, coaches its student members on the kinds of traits employers look for in candidates. He says that job-seeking students often make the same mistakes when approaching companies.

“What a lot of students typically do wrong is that they ask, ‘What can I do at your company?’ instead of talking about what skills they have and what the immediate challenges the company is experiencing in 2016, and how they are going to combat that,” says Vive.

Lost in translation

A major issue for the graduate jobseeker is how best to apply lofty academic titles to the work place. Being able to translate your university achievements into something tangible that can add value to a business is crucial, according to Vive.

Students should be concrete in their language in applications and outline clearly how their skills match the needs of the company. Using academic jargon is also a no-no. Vive points out that graduate jobseekers often cite vague terminology such as innovation, without specifying exactly what and how they intend to achieve this.

Hopeful young students at Career Day 2014. Courtesy of Career Day Facebook Page

“Smaller companies do not know what it means to have a Masters in Political Science or Innovation and they honestly don’t really care. They want to know what you can do to profit the company – can you manage projects? Can you re-vamp their homepage? It’s more about what you know and what you can do, rather than your title,” says Vive.

How to improve your chances

It’s not all doom and gloom, however: there are a number of ways students can increase their chances of finding gainful employment after university.

Undertaking some in-depth research into the company prior to sending in an application is a useful way to find out which gaps need to be filled. Networking and relationship building can also be vital in aiding the jobhunt. Vive suggests that graduates need to proactively engage with future employers; don’t wait for them to do the chasing.

“Try to meet them. Get them to tell you their personal story, ask ‘How did you land your job and what is your background? How long have you been there?’ Start there,” says Vive.

Start small to make it big

Graduates are also often unrealistic in their first-job endeavours, seeking roles in sectors where entry-level positions are minimal, or at times just do not exist. Vive advises that students should consider smaller organisations in their job search. It can be a huge advantage as it’s easier to make an impact in an organisation with fewer employees.

Smaller companies also offer new graduates the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of different work place functions and widen their net of gained experience – be prepared to be a generalist, according to Vive.

Hopeful young students at Career Day 2014. Courtesy of Career Day Facebook Page

“You might be a project manager one week, a marketing assistant the next week, and helping to finalize the economic statement another week. You will try a lot of different tasks, but it’s a good way to find out which of them you like,” says Vive.

Do you have a good story? We would like to hear from you. In the meantime, sign up for our weekly newsletter for news, like us on Facebook for features, guides and tips on upcoming events and follow us on Twitter for links to other Copenhagen academia stories.