Making the employability connection
Using reflections to communicate employability
Once your students have completed their reflections and you have assessed or provided feedback (if applicable) what happens to them? Are they just other pieces of assessment that are never looked at again?
Self-reflections in general contain a wealth of information. They are exceptionally helpful when setting goals or making action plans.
Self-reflection for the purposes of employability have even more use, as the situations that the student has reflected on and the capabilities and attributes that they have developed through that experience can be used as evidence of their employability development. In particular, the reflections can be used to communicate a student’s employability through:
- Application documentation such as Resumes, cover letters, online applications and selection criteria
- Informally through professional networks
- Pitching to investors or stakeholders
Using the reflections to help students to communicate their employability is an effective way to show the immediate value of the reflective activity.
If you have discussed with the students the capabilities and attributes valued in the work environment, and reminded them to consider these expectations when they were identifying their skill development through their reflection, then they should be well-positioned to use these reflections as examples of when they used that particular skill or attribute.
The entrepreneurial connection
Students are also very aware that they may be able to create their own work opportunities rather than enter the workforce as employees, and this pathway is encouraged in higher education institutions either as a full time option or as something that individuals may engage in alongside their ‘day job’.
While many students may feel that by choosing an entrepreneurial pathway they are avoiding the need to communicate their employability in a formalised recruitment process, they will still need to be able to articulate their potential to investors, community members or other stakeholders.
Reflections on experiences for employability can still form that basis for this non-recruitment based communication and can provide excellent examples of where a student has developed many capabilities highly regarded in entrepreneurial circles such as initiative, proactivity, resilience, determination, and communicating with influence.
To connect the reflection back to the students’ employability you might:
- Ask the student to update their resume to reflect the learning and skill development they have gained from the experience
- Get the students to create a value proposition based on their reflection that they can use in networking or pitching situations, that concisely explains their strengths, defining moments, development opportunities and passions.
- Ask the students to respond to selection criteria using their reflections as examples for their written responses.
- Pair the students up and ask them to respond to behavioural interview questions using the learning opportunities they reflected on as their examples.
- Get the students to review the self-reflections that they have written on several different learning opportunities, and see if they can identify particular strengths (capabilities that might show up regularly in their reflections). List these strengths and then compare them with the skills expected in their preferred area of work. What other skills should they be looking to develop?
- Ask the student to then think about what activities they might be able to participate in to assist with the development of these ‘missing’ skills and create an action plan.
Your university’s Career Team may be able to support these activities with your students or deliver additional workshops to help students to use their reflections to effectively communicate their employability.
You might like to recommend that your students add their reflection to an ‘experience bank‘ with other artefacts and evidence that can demonstrate skill or capability acquisition when applying for work or further study.
Many universities provide students with access to an ePortfolio to collate employability artefacts and to showcase them to potential employers, but students can just as easily create a basic experience bank through WordPress or other software.