Negotiation Skills and Career advice at Stirling

This really seems to have been my week for visiting Stirling both for routine business meetings and for events at the University which must have the most beautiful campus in Britain, with rolling parkland, woods and a swan filled loch.

I was delighted to take part in a careers event around what you could do with a law degree on Wednesday to talk about opportunities in industry which are often overlooked together with colleagues extolling the fun to be had in private practice, the Scottish Government and in investment. Everyone was so enthusiastic about the career path they had chosen that it was tempting to go and sign up on the spot – I wonder how many of us would be doing what we are doing if we had had the opportunity to hear about other careers? I was particularly tempted by the investment option.

David Hoey an employment lawyer at BTO gave some very helpful advice to the students on ways in which to distinguish themselves from the pack by use of social media and by using discussion groups such as on LinkedIn to demonstrate their interest and expertise and to raise their profile with potential employers. This struck me as a great idea I would not have considered. It is a real problem with so may talented people chasing very few jobs for the student to stand out and for the employer to make a selection. Many students of course have qualities that would be of real value to an employer but fail to highlight these in a cv and the staff at the careers service can help them make the most of the experiences they have gained. A useful thing to raise is any position of responsibility from being a Scout leader, to teaching a sport to opening up a shop regularly. You can also highlight people skills such as working with vulnerable people or problem solving. Organisational skills or occasions when you have taken an initiative are also well worth mentioning. Personally I am always attracted to those whose activities demonstrate a long term committment to “giving back” – I find a long term coach more interesting for example than someone who has achieved elite personal status admirable although that most certainly is.

My other reason for being at Stirling University this week was to teach an ongoing course in negotiation to Diploma Students. A lot of what we are doing there can of course be transferred to a job interview – a professional appearance, an active interest, an appropriate level of energy, listening skills and a well constructed argument relevant to the needs of the other party – in this case the potential employer. It is of course harder to get this over in a letter to even get as far as an interview and many of the students on the course are still without training contacts and are naturally becoming concerned. There is a further session on careers in law next month so it will be interesting to hear what advice the other panellists can give.

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