Building A Spectacular STEM CV

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With competition for graduate schemes becoming increasingly rife, and never ending hoops to jump through, acquiring a job after graduating is tougher than it’s ever been. Employers look for more than a degree, and desire evidence of essential skills and life experience. So here at Wessex Scene, we’ve compiled a list of skills and tips to help set yourself apart that excludes all the formalities such as how long a CV should be, how you should tailor it for each job, formatting and order of appearance.

  1. Experience, experience, experience

This, of course, is obvious – the more experience you have, the easier it is to demonstrate that you have the skills useful to your future employer. However, getting the right experience can seem difficult at first but, with a pro-active mindset, it can be achieved. Furthermore, getting experience allows you to test the waters and see if you would actually enjoy working in that sector. You may find you love it, and you may find it’s not for you. Both of these are perfectly acceptable and just because you realise you don’t want to pursue that area as a career doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time as you’ve gained those all important “transferrable skills” whilst demonstrating your proactive attitude.

If you feel research may be the path for you, the easiest way to gain experience is to ask research staff within your department if they would be happy to have you work in their lab during the holidays and provide you with some insight in an area you’re passionate about. Most research staff are happy to accommodate this and may even have the resources to pay you.

Another fantastic point of entry is the Southampton Excel internship programme, which has schemes available (both paid and unpaid) throughout the year in a vast number of areas. The best thing about the Excel internship is that there are a range of positions available local to Southampton each year that may spark your interest in an area you weren’t previously aware about, from charity work, and public speaking to working with local businesses.

Also perhaps the university doesn’t offer the option to learn a particular skill you want to learn, or maybe the language courses have no spaces. There are plenty of online courses and apps you can use to kick start that process, such as Code Academy, duolingo and Lynda.com. Whilst these may seem like baby steps to gaining a full rounded knowledge on a certain skill, demonstrating your pro-active nature to learn these skills on you own speaks volumes to an employer about your work ethic.

  1. Get involved

Employers also look for evidence that you’re sociable and have more to offer than just your degree. Unfortunately, that 10-night bender at Freshers doesn’t count, and neither does your ability to see off a beverage (though wouldn’t that be great). Going to the Bunfight at the start of the year and second semester to join some of the societies is always a good place to start, but don’t be disheartened if you don’t find the right one for you straight away. Most clubs accept anyone throughout the year, and it’s always worth giving things a try just to dip your toe in even just for a semester! Furthermore, being part of societies is beneficial for both physical and mental health, so it’s a win-win from all aspects.

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Another string to your bow, which employers look for and some have even starting requiring it as an essential skill, is being part of a committee whilst at university. Employers love to see committed involvement, and being part of a committee even translates as ambition to do more and shows off those all important leadership skills. All societies have their own committee, but if none of their roles appeal to you, or you don’t get the position you want, there’s still a chance to get involved with other committees which are both fun and provide valuable experience. From the zones committees such as the Athletic Union committee to student reps and halls committees, there is an abundance of opportunities waiting for you to take advantage. For more information on the zone committees, the best thing to do would be message a sabbatical officer that heads that zone and see how you can get involved.

  1. The future is social

There are numerous online platforms designed to help you get a job such as LinkedIn, STEM graduates and Gradcracker , which are all part and parcel of accessing jobs today, no matter how annoying the emails are (looking at you, TARGET jobs). However, often we are warned about the negative impact other social media can have when we look for jobs. Social media can and should be used to your advantage to showcase the sides you want employers to see. For instance, Twitter is a great tool for keeping up with current affairs and with the companies you’re interested by through following the right platforms and people. Engaging with this media, commenting on it and retweeting shows high engagement with the world around you, allowing you to bring up or cover relevant topics during interviews. It also provides a certain aspect of transparency. Furthermore, documenting your experiences online can also be another great way of engaging with employers, from the standard blogs and vlogs to having online portfolios through tools such as Pathbrite that allow a tangible link to the skills you have gained.

Hopefully these 3 points provide a good start to building your CV, but most importantly, don’t doubt your self-worth when applying for jobs and be confident. Setbacks are part of the process and as cliché as it sounds, do provide you with practical experience with the process of awkward video interviews and assessment centres; just keep digging away and you’ll get there. Also, don’t forget the Careers Centre in the Student Services building, which can provide help with all aspects of the job application process.

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Final year Chemistry student at the University of Southampton. Dabble in writing and photography

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