School of Social and Political Science

Step 1: Planning Your Development


One of the most important elements of your professional development is effective planning. Thinking ahead, and deliberately structuring your year, will help you to make the most of the time and resources available to you.

During the planning stages, take a longer-term view of your professional development. Ask yourself:

  • What skills do I need to succeed? This includes academic skills (starting at university, moving from pre-Honours to Honours-level) and professional skills (working with others, communicating with different audiences, managing your time).
  • What resources are available to help me? The university places a strong focus on building skills through experience. There are many different offices dedicated to providing opportunities and experiences to support your development (such as the Student Development Office, the Careers Service, the IAD, student societies, sports clubs and PALS).
  • What activities can I take part in to develop skills or experiences? Are there any societies or clubs that you could join? Could you take on a role within the School as a class rep or a PALS leader?
Planning Tools

The SDO has a range of tools available to help you:
  • Skills for Success Workshops: SDO staff run workshops looking at your year ahead. We'll be thinking about what universities are for and your role as a learner, as well as how to 'build' your employability from the perspective of the employer.
  • Graduate Attributes: The Graduate Attributes Framework (GAF) provides a checklist of the key skills and competencies you should aim to develop while you are at university. All SDO skills training sessions are mapped onto the GAF, making it easier to identify the most relevant sessions for you.
  • Career Compass: This tool provides step-by-step guidance to help you plan your time and activities. You can also book a 1-1 meeting with a Careers Advisor.
  • Skills Coaching: The SDO provides skills coaching to all students. Sessions must be booked in advance.
  • Other support across the university: Take some time to explore the wide range of support available throughout your degree.
Graduate Attributes

Download the Graduate Attributes tool (PDF)

Building Employability

Every student is unique. The quality, depth and breadth of your experiences while at The University of Edinburgh will help you to develop characteristic attributes that set you apart from your peers.

Throughout your time here, you'll be developing both academic knowledge and professional 'soft' skills. 'Soft' skills influence how you work and connect with other people; skills like effective communication, time management, working in teams, creativity, networking and problem solving.  'Soft' skills are often known as 'transferable' skills, because you can apply them across a range of sectors.  

Employers look for candidates who offer both academic knowledge and a strong transferable 'soft' skills. Taking time to focus on your skills development during your degree will ensure that you are a competitive and employable candidate in the graduate job market.

Graduate Attributes Framework (GAF)

The Graduate Attributes Framework is made up of two parts:

  1. Mindsets: how you think
  2. Skills: how you 'do'

Information about the mindsets and skills that make up the Graduate Attributes Framework

The Mindsets

Enquiry and Lifelong Learning

University of Edinburgh graduates seek personal and academic learning that makes a positive difference to themselves and to the world around them. Inspired by their exposure to world-leading research, they are innovative and lifelong learners.

Aspiration and Personal Development

University of Edinburgh graduates draw on their initiative and experience to expand and fulfil their potential. Making the most of a confident and reflective approach, they take personal responsibility for pursuing their goals and opportunities to grow.

Outlook and Engagement

University of Edinburgh graduates draw on the quality, depth and breadth of their experiences to engage with the communities and world around them. With an informed international perspective, they seek to contribute positively, ethically and respectfully.

The 4 Skills Groups

All SDO workshops and training opportunities are mapped to the Graduate Attributes Framework. This will help you to identify which workshops are most useful to you.

By the time you finish your degree, try to have demonstratable experience of each of the skills listed below. You can use these examples during interviews.

Skill Group List of Skills
Research and Enquiry
  • Problem solving
  • Analytical thinking
  • Knowledge integration and application
  • Numeracy and big data
  • Independent research
  • Digital literacy
  • Handling complexity and ambiguity
  • Critical thinking
Personal Effectiveness
  • Leadership
  • Planning, organising and time management
  • Professional/situational awareness
  • Effective team working
  • Assertiveness and confidence
Personal and Intellectual Autonomy
  • Ethics and social responsibility
  • Self-awareness and reflection
  • Independent learning and development
  • Creativity and inventive thinking
  • Decision making
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Verbal communication and presentation
  • Cross-cultural communication
  • Written communication
  • Influencing and negotiation skills
  • Social media
Careers Compass

Download your own compass (PDF)

The Careers Compass is designed to help you:

  • Understand your current professional development strenghts
  • Identify possible gaps
  • Begin to plan your year ahead.

The Compass can help you to take small steps towards developing employability and preparing you for graduation.

The Compass has five key elements:

  1. Understand yourself
  2. Discover what’s out there
  3. Build experience
  4. Become professional
  5. Make it happen

Why use it?

It’s hard knowing where to start and it can feel overwhelming. The Careers Compass is designed to help from whatever point you are starting at. Whether you are in your first year or your final year, focussed or unsure - it can guide you with suggestions of what to do and when. Time is precious so use the Compass to help you build:

  • awareness of what you want, what you are good at and where to develop further
  • awareness of possible options, different sectors, employers & ways of working
  • different types of experiences where you can develop valuable skills and personal qualities
  • confidence in understanding what it takes to succeed in the things that matter to you
  • confidence in knowing how to find and create opportunities, make informed decisions and do successful applications

How to use it

Really busy? Feeling under pressure? Just started thinking about professional development? Try these quick-start suggestions to get you going:

  • set up a folder to store files
  • look at each aspect of the Careers Compass and see the actions to take at each stage
  • use the worksheets to think about what you’ve done and save them in your folder
  • are some sections harder to complete? Use the worksheets to plan what you are going to do
  • look at the events and resources available to see what could help you
STEP 1: Understand Yourself

Understanding yourself helps you identify what’s important to you, what you enjoy and why. It also helps work out what you are good at and what suits you.

You’ll make much better applications as a result & you are more likely to find career fulfilment and satisfaction.

STEP 2: Discover What's Out There

Being curious and exploring different sectors, finding out about different roles, courses, employers and ways of working will help you work out what’s a good fit for you.

This will help you narrow down the options and make decisions.

STEP 3: Build Experience

Building experience can be everything from being a student rep to part-time work, volunteering in the community to being a School ambassador, informal summer work to doing an internship.

Previous experience in an unrelated role, family commitments, course placements, employer visits, work-shadowing, virtual internships….it all counts.

STEP 4: Become Professional

Becoming professional is a gradual process -it includes being confident about email etiquette, building or extending networks and business awareness or being aware of your digital presence.

Whatever stage you’re at in your career – brand new graduate or years of experience, there are always ways you can develop.

STEP 5: Make It Happen

You need a strategy to maximise your chances of success. All the work you have done across the different aspects of the Careers Compass will help everything come together.

Making effective applications and positive impressions at interviews depends a lot on how well you understand yourself and what you can offer, how well you know what you have applied for and how much you have used the resources to help you. This is something you have a lot of control over.

Skills for Success Workshops

The SDO host a series of 'Skills for Success' sessions in weeks 1 and 2 of semester 1. Each session will focus on a different year of the degree. Slides from the sessions will be made available after the event.

In each year of your degree, the SDO will encourage you to focus on a different aspect of your academic and professional development.

2022-23 session dates can be found on our Workshops and Events calendar in the Development Hub. 

2022-23 Workshops


Year 1 - Skills for Academic Success

We'll help you to hone the core academic skills that you'll need during your degree. We'll be focusing on learning skills, reading skills, writing skills, speaking skills and exam skills

Year 2 - Preparing for Honours

We'll start to think about the step-change to Honours-level learning. We'll look at how you learn and help you to understand where your preferences as a learner lie.

Year 3 - Planning for Your Career

We'll shift our focus from academic development to professional development. We'll be thinking about how to build your CV and the different resources available to help you.

Year 4 - Getting the Job

We'll start to think about recruitment from the employer's perspective: what skills do they want and how can you build rapport during the interview process.

Tips for the Year Ahead

The academic year will pass quickly but planning early will help you to manage your schedule. The SDO offers 1-1 skills coaching to help you identify your goals and structure your time.


University is a great space to push your boundaries and try new things. You could:

  • join a new society
  • take up a new sport
  • meet new people
  • find a new hobby

There are always new workshops, clubs, initiatives and opportunities available to you. No matter what you want to achieve this year, there will be someone ready to help you!

Clubs and societies


There are so many people across the university who want to help you succeed. If you need advice, guidance or just a friendly face, don't be afraid to reach out and ask for support.

Time management

Submission deadlines creep up quickly so manage your time from the start to spread the workload and avoid last minute cramming.


University is a great place to meet new people and build your professional networks. The person sitting next to you today could later be the CEO of your dream company. Use your time here to meet new people and build new connections.

Other Support Available

Across the university, there are many offices providing career support and training resources.

The Student Development Office is your local skills hub but we work closely with the wider careers and development community, combining resources and training to provide you with a wide range of opportunities.

Student category
Development Hub