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Skills Guides

Reflective practice: employability skills

Introduction

Learning how to capture, reflect on and evidence your experiences and skills will support you in your ongoing development, prepare you for future applications for employment or further study and help you manage your career over your entire working life. This guide provides information and tools to assist you in this.

Reflecting on an experience is a way of evaluating your own reactions and capabilities. It can help you to learn from your experiences, improve your approaches in the future and evidence your skills and strengths to others. It can also boost your confidence and make you feel good about your achievements! Plus it's a great way to impress employers, as Iain Menneer, Chief Executive Officer of Animalcare Group PLC tells us, "Employers are looking for something quite special in a graduate, someone who has gone beyond their studies, is very proactive and can reflect on their experiences."

These resources are aimed at everyone, but will be particularly useful for students who want to do some or all of the following:

  • capture their transferable skill learning from work experience, extra curricular activities and academic course content
  • prepare for a job or further study application
  • apply for the York Award.  

Why reflect?

Employability skills

"Employability skills" is a term you will hear and see often at university. These are the skills that many employers look for when recruiting and a student exhibiting many of these qualities will have an advantage over those who do not. 

You can find out more about the skills, strengths and capabilities sought by employers using the following resources. 

How to reflect

Reflection goes beyond just a description of an event or situation. Simple description doesn’t pose any questions or offer any thoughts on what happened or why.

To reflect on an activity or experience you need to ‘stand back from the event’, ask questions about what happened and offer your thoughts, answers and conclusions. A reflective approach is useful as it will help you to analyse your behaviour (how you approached the task), consider the positives and also the areas to address for improvement in the future.

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It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations that allow new situations to be tackled effectively.

 

(Gibbs, 1988)

Many different models and approaches have been suggested for reflection. One approach that can help you structure your reflection is the Gibbs model below:

Description

What happened?

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Action Plan

If it rose again, what would you do?

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

Feelings

What were you thinking and feeling?

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Conclusion

What else could you have done?

Evaluation

What was good and bad about the experience?

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Analysis

What else can you make of the situation?

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Reflect on an experience

Reflective writing exercises

Improve your reflective writing skills by having a go at the two exercises below - click on a blue box to start an exercise:

Description
or
reflection?
Look back
to
move forward

Describing and evidencing your skills, strengths and capabilities

Being able to describe your skills, strengths and capabilities to others, and evidence them with examples, is a really critical skill to develop as it will support you in making applications for work experience or employment, or further study.

You can use the well known 'CAR' model to help you do this. This encourages you to talk about your experiences in a way that is valued by employers. C-A-R stands for Context, Action, Result:

  • Context - explain the situation/context briefly 
  • Action - describe what you did, how did you go about the task/solve the problem/challenge
  • Result - what was the outcome of your actions? How did you or others (e.g. society/group) benefit?

The video below explains this further.

 

Have a go

Choose one of your skills, strengths or capabilities, and have a go at answering the questions below. 

You can draw on any example. This could include an example from your academic studies, college life, sports clubs and societies, volunteering, campus events, internships and work experience. Think about examples you might use with an employer as this is good preparation for future job applications/interviews. 

  1. What was the situation where you demonstrated this strength? (suggest 30-50 words)
  2. What did you do? What action did you take? How did you use your strength? (suggest  60-80 words)
  3. What were the results of your actions? How did you feel when using your strengths? What was the impact on you or others? Could you have used your strengths to improve the outcome? What did you learn about yourself and your strengths? (suggest 120-150 words)

Further support

Reflective writing for academic purposes

You may be also be asked to use reflective writing in your academic studies and assignments. The guide linked below provides a range of guidance and resources to support you. The guide also contains additional resources that you may find useful in preparing for job/further study applications. 

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