Recently finished your degree and having a tough start to your graduate job hunt?
Here are 4 common hurdles graduates from a Science background initially find tricky to clear and how you can overcome them:
1. Not knowing where to start
So you’ve been snowed under with coursework and examination preparations over the past few months and your job search has been limited to keeping tabs on a couple of well-known companies you’re interested in and your university’s job board. When it comes to actually sitting down and making your job search a priority, deciding where to start can be daunting.
A good time-management tip is to take a whole day researching what’s out there exactly. Draw up a map of the opportunities available to you in your preferred location(s). The UK Science Park Association is a great place to start and the members section of their website details a list of Science Parks by location.
Take some time to study companies based within those Science Parks that interest you, studying the requirements of any relevant graduate job opportunity they have listed on their website and tailoring your CV and covering letter to match.
Any companies you like the sound of that aren’t actively recruiting put to one side and spend the next day preparing speculative introductory letters (attaching a CV tailored to the company) detailing why you’re interested in the organisation and how you found them.
It’s important not to neglect resources such as LinkedIn and the national job boards, as both are good outlets for keeping your finger on the pulse as to what’s out there. Additionally, a well thought-out profile will help recruiters introduce relevant opportunities to you.
2. Being ‘pigeon-holed’ by your degree title
One common frustration we hear from Scientific graduates is that their actual degree title can restrict them with employers.
I’ve spoken to Marine Biology graduates who have become frustrated by their lack of progression when applying for jobs that require a degree in Biology due to the content of their course being perhaps misunderstood somewhat.
You can overcome this by focussing on aspects of your degree that are transferable. Convey how you’ve studied modules that undergraduates from less specialised degree courses study also and most importantly, put across how your degree has specifically equipped you with the skills relevant to the jobs you’re applying for.
Underlining your transferable skills is also crucial to any Scientific graduate when applying for jobs that don’t require a specific Science degree. For instance, a company may look for a graduate with the capability to grasp a diverse range of complex scientific concepts and subsequently, the ability to then communicate research findings and analysis externally. This is where you should move away from the highly specialist areas of study and focus instead on your temperament as an undergraduate and how you intend to carry this into your future career.
3. Fitting your degree knowledge onto two sides of A4
A common feature we see on the CVs of Science graduates is huge blocks of text throughout. Although going into a large amount of detail may be tempting to graduates who necessarily mightn’t have extensive work experience to help colour a CV, you need to remember that you’re applying for a job and not sitting an exam.
Many employers will be processing applications from large amounts of graduates and they need to make a fast decision as to whether a candidate has the core skills to perform a role. This is why your CV should act as more of a contents page to your skills.
List attributes you’ve gained from your study and work placements that are most relevant to the job and organisation concerned. It’s crucial to list any key skills you have including the appropriate technical terms but be concise. You can then direct readers away from your CV to any publications or portfolios if you want to elaborate the technical aspects in full detail.
If you’re submitting your CV on an online job board or filling in your LinkedIn profile then make sure you list your skills that are currently most sought after by employers or suit your area of interest most.
4. Not knowing the fundamental qualities employers look for in a Science graduate
Understandably, employers will first and foremost be on the look-out for graduates with the specific skillset to perform a given job but what other, more general qualities do companies want to see from candidates?
It seems obvious but it doesn't make it any less important: try to gain as much experience of what area you'd like to go into as you can outside of university. Detailing this during an application process shows how serious you are about getting into your chosen industry and a strong set of references from relevant work placements is key to proving your suitability to a potential employer.
It's also vital to remember how competitive the job market you'll be going into is. There will be many with similar academic experiences to yourself, so anything you can tell an employer about what makes you unique will be effective during your job-hunt - though significantly it all must be relevant to the job you're applying for.
Communication skills will rank high on many employers’ checklist and if you can prove you’re able to communicate complex scientific concepts effectively whilst presenting yourself in a professional manner you’ll go a long way.