There’s no doubt that if you have a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) you are going to be in demand with any number of employers.
Professionals in these fields are blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds, in medical research, environmental advances and harnessing the power or data for nearly every kind of new business. These types of career opportunities have simply never been around before.
Yet sadly, despite all these advances coming from the STEM world, there is still a perceived ‘digital skills shortage’ in the UK. The stats are worrying – the UK needs an extra 20,000 engineering graduates every year in order to meet current demand.
With that in mind, here’s what every STEM graduate needs to know to stand out in this highly competitive field and sell yourself to potential employers.
The value of networking:
Degrees, especially STEM degrees, don’t often say a lot about the individual. Getting your personality and enthusiasm across is key to people remembering you and considering you for opportunities.
Having the right attributes and technical skills makes you an attractive option for science and technology firms, but you do need to remember to sell yourself, your values, your interests, and how these emphasise your technical skills. Networking and speaking to people in your desired field is key.
Staying in touch with your university peers is a great way to do this. The chances are, even if they have the exact qualification you do, their career aspirations will be different. Buddy up for events and networking opportunities and make use of all the great free events at universities, startup incubators and places like Codebase.
If you’ve done a work placement or internship as part of your university course make sure to keep in touch with your co-workers there, especially your boss or Line Manager. A little effort goes a long way in being remembered.
This leads us on nicely to….
Your online network:
Your university may not have prepped you for this, but sadly LinkedIn is unavoidable these days.
Kit out your profile with a friendly summary explaining your expertise and your interests within your field. If you love product engineering, let me know why. If you’re passionate about scientific advancements contributing to the circular economy, I’m all ears. People will invest in your passion and enthusiasm as much as your qualification.
Remember, STEM firms are looking for emotional intelligence and the ability to solve complex problems, as well as collaboration and communication skills.
Posting relevant articles and news is key to getting involved in the wider conversation. This is a great way to catch people’s eye and build your credibility. Google Alerts is a great way to keep track of news related to your interests. Simply enter the keywords of your professional interests and you’ll get daily emails of new articles posted online on the subjects. Share these on LinkedIn and you’ll be an opinion leader in no time.
Joining Facebook groups is a great way to keep up with what’s going on. Tech Meetup and Digital Scotland have a ton of members. Whatever your STEM interest, it’s likely there is a Facebook community talking about it right now.
The perfect job may not fall in your lap right away, so try to obtain as much experience as possible in the meantime. Internships are a great way to test the water in a short-term role, build connections and gain valuable practical experience for your CV.
While job roles in big multinationals are usually highly-structured, taking on shorter, project-based roles in smaller companies and startups will allow you to take on a diverse array of responsibilities, wearing many hats, rather than being pigeonholed.
Taking on an internship that may not be directly related to your dream job shows that you have drive. Any experience in a business is going to give you an advantage over a candidate with none. These days companies are often hiring for ‘cultural fit’ as well as skills, so showing that you have already positively contributed to a business in some capacity will give you a winning edge.
Similarly, don’t shy away from what you’ve learned in part-time jobs. Whether you’ve worked in a bar or café, or a summer job in a shop, outlining ‘transferable skills’ in your CV will only make you a stronger candidate. Don’t underestimate customer service experience. Employers love ‘soft skills’, especially in STEM roles.
And always leave a good lasting impression with any job. You never know when your name may come up again in a company.
Stay positive and be resilient
Very few STEM graduates land their dream job right after university. The trick is to keep your head up and keep your name out there.
Sign up for job alert emails everywhere you can and set your LinkedIn to ‘open to new opportunities’.
When you apply for roles be sure to tailor your application to that company. Employers want to see you’ve done your research on them. Why do you want THEIR job? Why is their work important to YOU?
By failing to understand what a STEM employer actually does, or by forgetting to match their own skills and attributes to the job advert in question, too many candidates waste both their time and that of the company.
Don’t be that person!
If you are a STEM graduate or late-stage student, we’re collecting CVs for upcoming opportunities. If this sounds like you, send your information to firstname.lastname@example.org