Developing my skills

University is the perfect time to build your skills and experience. Extra-curricular activities can complement and enhance your academic studies, and give you a head start on achieving your future goals.

The two main skill sets that you should aim to develop while studying at university are:

  • Professional or technical skills: specific skills required by your field of interest, acquired through study and related work experience.
  • Employability skills: transferable skills common to all work roles and workplaces, acquired through study and work experience, but also through a range of work and other life experiences.

Assessing your employability skills

Employability skills are viewed by employers as important for success in the workplace as well as for your future employment opportunities. Examples of employability skills include:

  • interpersonal and communication skills (consistently rated as the most important)
  • teamwork
  • leadership
  • problem solving
  • planning and organising
  • customer service.

Consider conducting a skills audit to assess your employability skills and how you might work on developing them.

Skills and attributes

Skills are a primary focus when it comes to professional development, but attributes play an equally important role. An attribute is a characteristic or personality trait that enhances and complements your employability skills.

Employability skillsAttributes
Communication Commitment
Teamwork Reliability
Problem solving Enthusiasm
Organisation Common sense
Self management Sense of humour
Digital literacy Honesty
Leadership Integrity
Customer service Motivation
Research Adaptability

While you don't necessarily 'build' attributes in the same way that you build employability skills, you need to identify what your best attributes are and where your strengths and weaknesses may be. It is important to identify attributes that may be desirable in relation to your particular industry or job type.

Understanding transferable skills

Transferable skills are skills that you develop and use throughout your life in work and non-work situations, that can be easily transferred and adapted from one role to another. They allow you to function effectively across different industries, job types and workplaces.

The following list provides examples of transferable skills, as well as examples of circumstances in which you may have built and developed these skills.

Transferable skill Example of skill development
Leadership Sports team captain, organising an event or a music band, student association’s board member, club treasurer, communications manager etc.
Time management Casual work and following rosters (retail, hospitality etc), balancing study and research projects with work or extra-curricular activities.
Communication (written and verbal) Communicating effectively with your classmates during group work, engaging presentations, professional email communication, professional reports, casual work (such as customer service), leadership roles or extra-curricular activities (sport, debating, etc), cross-cultural communication in the classroom, study abroad experience, mentoring.
Team work Playing on a sports team, group project work, hobbies such as starting or joining a band or similar interest group, being part of a work team (such as a bar or retail team), participating in internships and work experience that involves working with others.
Research Students at tertiary level have well-developed academic research skills as a result of their studies, and these skills can be adapted to research activities within the workplace.

You possess a wide range of skills that you have developed through your study, work and life experience. It is your job to reflect on your experiences, identify your transferable skills and articulate them when required. Employers or stakeholders may ask you: “what have you done so far?” or “why should we offer this opportunity to you?” You need to be able to articulate why providing you with an opportunity would be a worthwhile investment for them.

Ways to improve skills

Explore the many ways that you can improve your skills while you study.

  • Mentoring

    A mentor can assist you in getting the most out of your study, and to expand your knowledge of future employment pathways and strategies after graduation. You may consider becoming a mentor yourself, which is a great way to demonstrate to employers that you enjoy giving back to the community. Mentoring is an effective way to develop empathy, active listening and rapport-building skills, which are relevant to a range of professional opportunities requiring interpersonal and communication skills.

  • Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities

    These activities provide great entry-level skill development and networking opportunities, and many of them are on campus. For example, student interest clubs enable you to develop skills such as event organising, project management, teamwork, communication, leadership and more. It is recommended to get involved at the start of your student journey.

  • Study abroad

    Spending a period of time overseas at a partner institution can be a life-changing experience and provide new insights into your preferences, choices and ideas about your future. Other benefits include cross-cultural communication skills, cultural awareness, establishing new connections, self-management, planning and resourcefulness. These skills all contribute to developing your ability to thrive in today's diverse global market. The University offers a range of options if you are interested in study abroad.

  • Work experience

    You may seek opportunities to develop professional and transferable skills in a setting similar to a work environment, solving real-life business problems individually or in teams. Keep yourself informed of opportunities within your industry, such as employer-sponsored competitions or other industry opportunities for student engagement.

    • Internships: fixed-term work experience programs such as internships are a great way to gain insights into a profession or a specific organisation, and assist in developing networks. They also provide an opportunity to demonstrate what you can contribute to the workplace and may lead to an offer of employment.
    • Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placements: you may have the opportunity to consider internship subject placements. These are subjects embedded in your university curriculum and assessment that incorporate work experience and structured reflective practice, which reinforces professional learning. See your faculty or course adviser for further information.
  • Part-time or casual work

    This type of work may include entry-level positions in the workforce that may not require specific qualifications, such as hospitality. Part-time or casual roles are great for developing your understanding of the workplace, as well as transferable skills and attributes such as communication, teamwork, customer service and punctuality. You may also consider professional or semi-professional positions in a temporary or casual capacity. This is a great way to enter a company or profession of your preference.

  • Skills training

    In addition to your university studies, there are a range of skills training and development options which might be useful. We encourage you to see 'What's on at Stop 1' to explore information sessions, workshops, presentations and events at the University.

  • Further study

    Formally recognised qualifications offered by universities and other registered training providers may also assist you in further developing your skills. Examples include:

    • Concurrent Diplomas offered at the University of Melbourne in fields such as languages, informatics and global issues.
    • The Victorian Government subsidises some certificate and diploma-level course costs for students. Qualifications are delivered online, and are open to Australian citizens and those with permanent residency.
    • Professional development programs (short courses and single sessions) are offered by a range of organisations. Subjects include project management, copy-editing, website design, making presentations, using Excel and account management. University of Melbourne students also have access to Pick It Up Online! – a suite of online skills training sessions covering all levels of Office programs and other general professional skills.
    • MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are free, online subjects offered by a range of universities around the world, such as Coursera.
  • Social enterprise and entrepreneurship

    This involves participating in projects to identify needs or problems around us and develop ways to address them. This is a great way to demonstrate attributes such as initiative, result orientation, risk-taking and personal effectiveness, as well as highly sought-after skills such as process improvement, creativity, planning, organising and persuading. Employers value enterprising skills that can be used to improve processes within a workplace and generate new business ideas.

    It may be a good idea to take an enterprise subject as part of your studies, or see if you can get involved with any of the following:

The University offers a range of workshops and seminars for skills development and employability. Please check Stop 1 for upcoming sessions.

Tools and resources

In addition to the links above, you may also like to explore some of the following tools and resources. As always, we encourage you to do your own research into skills development, whether online or elsewhere, as part of your ongoing professional and personal development. Building your skills and experience is always your responsibility, and focusing on this now will help you to develop an important, lifelong interest in continuous learning and opportunities for development.

  • Employability Skills Framework – Victorian Government publication outlining key employability skills.
  • myskills – Australian Government site offering industry-specific information on professional courses and upskilling opportunities.
  • Skills You Need – international site dedicated to all types of skills, including employability skills, personal skills and more.
  • Youth Central – the Victorian Government's website for young people aged 12-25 with information about finding a job, study options, skills development, managing money and understanding your rights.

Need some more help?

Attend a seminar or workshop on skills development. Check Stop 1 for scheduled sessions.