Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

A masters qualification is a great way of getting ahead of the competition when it comes to finding a job. You develop higher level academic skills, improve your analytical thinking and become much more independent – all things that employers love.

However, you can give yourself an even better chance by developing some professional skills while you study, so that you graduate with a completely upgraded CV and skillset. If you're going straight into postgraduate study from your first degree this can be particularly handy: you'll gain the workplace-ready qualities that you might not have had time to develop elsewhere yet.

Brand New You

Unfortunately you can't simply download those abilities from the app store (although who knows, give it a few years), but there are still plenty of ways to develop your career skills. Arranging your own work experience or internship is a tried and tested option, for example, that will give you face time with employers and help prepare you for the field you're hoping to enter.

You might also find that your HE institution can help. Some, like BPP University, offer programmes that are designed to complement your academic studies. For example, their Academic and Career Skills module is an extension of some of their MSc programmes. It's been designed with the help of business professionals to give you the key employability skills you need, and has a built-in six month work placement so you can put them to the test in the real world.

Going Pro

If you choose a professional skills course like BPP's you'll study in the classroom (for six months in BPP's case) and submit written work and reports as well as going on a work placement. You'll also have your learning backed up by mentoring: BPP candidates get 120 hours of coaching across their MSc to make sure they're in great shape for the careers contest to come.

Jevon Cato, work placement coordinator from BPP explains exactly what's on offer to students who choose the academic and career skills route. “There will be CV writing workshops, a range of mock assessment centres around presentation skills and group activities such as role play, master class sessions and open days,” he says, “as well as networking events for students to attend on campus.”

In It to Win It

These activities, alongside coaching, can make a real difference to students. “I gained work experience and also improved my professional skills,” says BPP graduate Daryna Dorogan. “I also got a lot of really important and useful advice from my career coach on things like putting a CV together, writing a cover letter and how to conduct myself in interviews.”

Daryna wanted to change career paths and says that the module was really helpful in getting her the skills and experience to make the change. That's part of the appeal of these courses, according to Jevon. “We find that students who complete the module are more successful in the interview stages following graduation,” he says. “They not only have experience in their chosen field, but also the confidence to talk about it to prospective employers.”

The Complete Package

You might find that following a career skills course has a few unexpected side-effects. Some students find the skills they learn on the course can be applied to their studies: things like time management or focusing on multiple tasks, for example.

You could also see an improvement in the way you communicate with others, or perhaps feel more confident in general. Students face a number of obstacles, both professional (work-specific skills, CV knowhow) and personal (communication, teamwork) when it comes to securing a job, but that's just what a career skills course is there for. “It's designed to help students develop their own personal brand, identify their unique selling points and position themselves within the market,” says Jevon.

That's not all. “They'll also receive coaching that will help them to interact with their peers to build on their communication skills and boost confidence not only in the classroom but in their future place of work,” he says. Your masters degree will get you off to a great start: develop some career skills alongside it, though, and you could really be in a winning position.

More information: https://www.bpp.com/postgraduate-course-details/d/postgraduate/AACS/11625