Careers Service


Explore your strengths and add to them

Why are skills and behaviours important?

Employers look for more than discipline knowledge and qualifications. If a job needs a particular postgraduate degree, everyone else who will be considered will also have a postgraduate qualification - so your postgraduate degree in itself won't make you stand out.

Beyond your qualifications, employers look for evidence of your skills and behaviours.

What evidence do you have to show your strengths?

  • Review your skills and look for evidence which you could use with employers to demonstrate your strengths. Our Masters/PhD skills evidence form may help.
  • Identify your natural talents - it's easy to overlook these as they are the skills which come so easily to you, you may not even notice you're using them. Ask friends and colleagues what they think you're good at. They may notice things you do which you take for granted.
  • Current and recent University of Manchester postgraduates can access an online personality questionnaire the Type Dynamics Indicator

Add to your skills

Your postgraduate degree is a time to push yourself, to learn about what you are really capable of doing and to extend your range.

Use your natural talents as a springboard for developing new strengths

  • For example, if you are naturally personally well organised, offer to help organise an event with others, such as an academic conference or a community event. While you will probably feel confident about the organisational aspects, you may well be tested on your ability to influence and motivate others, take on board others' ideas, and how you deal with loss of total control.

Try something you've never tried before

  • If it's something scary, try and get someone to give you support. You can even give yourself permission to fail. Whether you succeed or not, you'll probably have learnt a lot about yourself. At the very least, you may have given yourself material for a good answer to the interview question: 'Give me an example of when you've failed at something and had to pick yourself up'.

Put a specific target in place

  • What you are going to do, when you are going to do it, how you will know if you've succeeded?

Learn how to improve by attending a training course

  • Don't stop there though; to have any effect, you need to follow any training course up with trying out your new skill or ability. This is important because employers are generally not very impressed by lists of training courses on CVs. They are much more impressed by how you've put your learning into practice.

Find someone who is good at something you want to improve and ask for their advice

  • This might be a mentor but can just as easily be another postgraduate who has a natural strength in something where you are weak. In this case, you might want to offer a swap - how can you help them with something you're good at? If possible, get them to observe you in action and prime them to give you feedback on your performance.
  • Asking for feedback Learn the etiquette of asking for feedback.

Consider trying something unrelated to your research or masters degree

  • This can stop you getting stale. More than that, sometimes concentrating on something other than your research or masters degree, or interacting with people for whom your subject is a mystery, can change your way of thinking and lead to insights into your research or academic problems. It's also good evidence of being able to operate outside a research or university environment, which can be useful in case you opt for a career outside academia.

In particular, if you consider volunteering with a local community organisation, this could help you feel part of Manchester's broader community, beyond the confines of Oxford Road. The University has links to volunteering opportunities.