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Skills for Success: It Takes More Than Just a Degree

At school, we are told that to set ourselves up for success we need to ace our exams, go on to university, and get a 2.1 or 1st class degree. Then, at university, the parameters shift, and it seems that success is defined by how many degrees you have to your name.

However, whilst education might be a great enabler, it doesn’t necessarily propel you to the top of the pack. With so many people possessing degrees, those two little letters after your name – whilst a source of pride and an acknowledgment of achievement – are no longer enough.

If you’re a finalist or recent graduate, do not be fooled into thinking your degree will be your golden ticket to a good job. Yes, it’s an important box to tick, and yes, university is about so much more than the piece of paper you leave with at the end. But, when it comes to career success, your personal attributes play a predominant role too. In fact, Carnegie Institute of Technology has claimed that 85% of success is the result of your individuality: your personality traits, the way you conduct yourself, and your overall outlook.

Evidently, a degree isn’t the only influencing factor in determining whether you will or will not be successful. We are all individuals with different skills and abilities, so it’s important to consider what traits you bring to the table – and how they set you apart. Here are some of the key skills you will want to demonstrate when interviewing for your first graduate role:


Regardless of your degree classification, if you aren’t 100% committed to your dream industry then the likelihood is you won’t have the drive to pursue a competitive entry-level job. Without dedication, graduates tend to lose pace and may start searching for jobs for the “meantime”, only to end up remaining there forever. Those who are dedicated to their specific industry are more likely to be successful because they are determined to secure the relevant job and prove themselves when they get it.


Not all first-class graduates are equal. Graduates who are confident and self-assured not only find it easier to secure a job, but also have the the personal skills to make a success of themselves once they start: they liaise effectively with colleagues and clients, sell products and services when the role requires it, and talk their way out of any negative situations. And being confident doesn’t necessarily mean being extroverted, either. More introverted personalities can still demonstrate confidence by embracing and revelling in personal achievements, gaining relevant experience, and remembering that confidence comes from self-belief.

Social Skills

Confidence is, without doubt, one of the most valuable personality traits for success, however, for some, this is also their greatest weakness. Sure, being confident may mean you can approach and talk to clients and colleagues with ease, yet sometimes over-confidence comes across as brash and intimidating. It is important to be able to take a step back, assess the situation, and empathise with clients and colleagues to ensure that your social skills aren’t going to damage those crucial work relationships.


If you lack initiative and the ability to think for yourself then you will stick out for all the wrong reasons in the office. Regardless of how confident, self-assured and intelligent you are, if you lack the initiative to problem solve and work independently then you may fall behind. Being able to use your own initiative is a trait that is imperative in the workplace, as there won’t always be someone around to tell you what to do next, to explain things to you, and to talk you through every role as you go along.

Written by:

Alysia-Marie is a University of Nottingham English and Creative Writing graduate with a passion for writing anything and everything. Her life's ambition is to find and taste the best doughnut in the UK (and become a travel writer/publisher/Louis Theroux's PA).

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