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Durham University

Careers & Enterprise Centre

Develop Employability Skills

Employability has been defined as a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that makes graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy (Yorke, 2006).

Employability is an important concept to consider during your time at Durham. Whatever you want to do once you graduate, you will need to consider whether you have the skills, experience and personal attributes that a future employer is looking for when hiring, or alternatively, to become self-employed or build your own enterprise.

Increasingly, employers are saying that a degree is not enough and that they are looking for students that can demonstrate a range of skills and show that they are 'work-ready'.

Below you will find a list of some key employability skills to consider if you would like to develop certain skills further during your time in Durham, there are opportunities within and outside the university. . Due to COVID-19, there is currently a wealth of online resources available to support you to develop your employability skills. Another way to learn more about the recruitment processes employers use and skills they are looking for is through our employer-led skills sessions that will be delivered virtually until the end of the calendar year.

  • Effective Communication- Being able to express ideas with clarity and to focus on writing, discussions and presentations.
  • Teamwork - Ability to take on different roles in a team and work well with others to achieve aims and objectives.
  • Commercial Awareness - Understanding of a business or sector. How do they operate? What are their aims? What are the challenges they face?
  • Problem Solving - Identifying potential problems, assessing the risks and applying logical and creative thinking to come up with solutions.
  • Leadership - Being able to motivate, inspire and develop other people's strengths. Coordinating activities, delegating tasks and setting deadlines.
  • Project Management - The process of planning, monitoring and controlling in relation to a particular project.
  • Time Management - Ability to manage your own time and prioritise to be more productive and efficient in completing tasks.
  • Initiative - Being proactive and enthusiastic, identifying opportunities, recognising best practice and generating new ideas.
  • Adaptability - Flexibility to work in different environments and teams on a range of projects and tasks.
  • Enterprise and Innovation - Ability to identify opportunities and gaps in the market and to create new and innovative ways to solve problems.
  • Digital Skills - Familiarity with the basic functions of the Microsoft Office suite and the ability to accept, learn and adapt to new technology.

Free online courses in almost any topic

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are a great way to develop skills and knowledge on a wide range of topics, including digital skills, presentations and communication, arts and humanities, business, sciences and so much more. There are many free short courses available from a variety of providers.

See some examples of online learning providers and course directories below:

Some organisations are offering courses free of charge that would normally incur a cost. Some courses are free for a limited time only - please make sure you read the course terms and conditions before signing up. See some examples below:

Coding courses and resources

Work Experience and part time jobs

Work experience and part time jobs will give you the opportunity to develop key employability skills that employers value so highly, including teamwork, communication, punctuality, the ability to handle stress in a real work environment. Stepping out of your comfort zone can really help to build confidence, develop your social skills and teach you how to adapt to new situations. There is information about the range of types of work experience available and opportunities available via Careers & Enterprise on our work experience and Student Employment Service web pages.

Virtual Work Experience

Now, more than ever, attention has turned to virtual, or online, internship and work experience. Some employers have introduced online resources designed to replicate typical tasks and interactions that you would experience through an internship, for example a Work Ready Virtual Experience from RateMyPlacement. You can browse a range of employer hosted virtual work experience opportunities on The Forgae.


You can develop employability skills (whilst benefitting your community) by participating in local in person or remote volunteering opportunities. See the advice provided by Staff Volunteering and Outreach (SVO) and explore opportunities with Durham University Charities Kommittee (DUCK).

Career planning and recruitment practice tools

We have a range of career planning and practice tools available on our website, including a career planner, MBTI tests, practice psychometric tests, video interview practice, and CV support.

Student positions of responsibility

Getting involved in a position of responsibility, such as an exec role in a society, association or college, or perhaps becoming a university open day ambassador or a course rep can enable you to develop wide-ranging employability skills, including presentation, interpersonal, communication, leadership, team working, advocacy, organisation and many more. Explore student societies and associations on the DSU website and enquire with your college and department about any roles available this year.

Extra-curricular opportunities

The student experience at Durham offers a vast array of opportunities to engage in. These have the added bonus of enabling you to develop useful skills for your future career, e.g. team working and leadership through sporting activities, or developing cultural awareness and language skills through engaging in student groups, courses and activities.

Academic Skills Development

Durham’s Centre for Academic Development (DCAD) offer courses, workshops and consultation services to help current students develop and enhance productivity and academic skills, including: academic writing, giving effective presentations, research skills, and digital skills and managing your time. DCAD also run one-to-one consultations for academic writing development and a drop-in service for maths and statistics.