We have structured our latest postgraduate web resources around a new employability framework, currently under development. This framework offers new insights into the key behaviours which are important for initial career success.

Where has this framework come from?

We commissioned work to identify the common behaviours of recent graduates who made a quick transition from an undergraduate degree to an aspirational graduate level job. It also identified the behaviours of recent graduates who struggled, or took longer, to get into the kind of jobs they wanted.

This work has highlighted the importance of five types of behaviour, grouped under the headings:

  • Explore, connect, reflect, communicate, persevere.

We have now developed a competency framework - a common way of describing how the best performers in a group differ from the others, in terms of positive and negative behaviours.

Further work is being carried out to validate the framework, develop a diagnostic tool, and create resources and further support to encourage students to develop these positive behaviours.

What's different about this framework?

There are many models and frameworks in career management. Some are focused on how people develop their understanding of careers. Other approaches (including many skills frameworks) are based more on what employers want from new recruits.

We wanted to focus on what most students want - to make a start on an interesting graduate level career, shortly after graduating. We also wanted a model which was developed for the pressures of today's competitive graduate job market.

The resulting groups of behaviours are not radically new, but they do highlight the importance of behaviours such as perseverance/drive and reflection. Many students may not have recognised that these behaviours can make a critical difference to their career prospects.

What about all those skills which employers want?

They're still important, and if you explore, connect, communicate, persevere and reflect on the results, you'll find lots of examples of skills which you have developed. Look at our 'How to...' guides to:

  • explore career options for postgraduates, including the skills needed by employers in your target career;
  • explore your strengths and add to them;
  • reflect on the results;
  • communicate them to employers.

What do employers think of it?

Initial feedback from employers has been positive. One former employer commented that they had used traditional skills based assessment to identify those who would proceed to the final stages of recruitment. However, the behaviours we have identified were what made the difference at final assessment. This is encouraging as a first indication that these behaviours really do differentiate 'the best from the rest' with graduate employers, but further work is needed to confirm this.

Who has done this work, where can I get more information?

This work is being led by Professor Ivan Robertson (formerly of UMIST/University of Manchester, now Emeritus Professor of Work & Organisational Psychology at the University of Manchester and Visiting Professor at Leeds University) and his team at the consultancy firm, Robertson Cooper. It is still under development and is not yet publicly available.

Does this work apply to postgraduates?

The initial work has focused on undergraduates, specifically those aiming for a graduate level job. These included jobs in science, the creative industries, teaching (humanities), business and engineering.

It has not yet focused on postgraduates, nor on those aiming at postgraduate study. Therefore, we would be cautious about applying the detailed competency framework and diagnostic tool directly to postgraduates.

However, the model has been piloted in postgraduate workshops and received a positive response. As a simple framework to focus career planning and actions, we believe that the model is a useful way of structuring our careers information for postgraduates.