The STEM graduate’s guide to getting a job

The awesome news for STEM grads looking for work? They typically demonstrate excellent analytical and problem solving abilities which translate to most industries. Image: Shutterstock  

You’re almost done with studying – then what? We hit up Career Success Australia’s Naren Chellappah to walk us through the process

With 75% of Australia’s most in-demand occupations requiring science, tech, engineering and maths skills – and STEM jobs growing 1.5 times faster than any other industry – doing a degree in STEM is one seriously smart career move.

And if you study it, but branch out elsewhere? Same deal! A survey for the Office of the Chief Scientist of Australia found that even if a job doesn’t directly need STEM skills, more than 82% of employers would value tertiary experience studying STEM in an applicant.

“STEM graduates know how to research, solve complex problems and apply creative thinking,” stresses Naren Chellappah of Career Success Australia. The seasoned job coach and program director has witnessed first-hand how attractive STEM skills can be.

“STEM graduates who can clearly show that they can analyse problems, conduct research and solve complex issues are always sought after!”

According to Naren (pictured), STEM grads who can conduct research and solve complex issues will be sought after by employers.

But what happens once you’ve finished studying? Naren shares his tips.

Start applying now

“Ideally it’s best to start the process of researching the types of graduate level jobs you’re keen on in first year. That way, you will have a good ‘feel’ for the technical skills/soft skills that companies are looking for.

“The most effective strategy is to complete an internship! Ask your University/TAFE if you can do a 6 month or 12 month paid internship program as part of the course – Swinburne, Monash and RMIT have different options like this.”

Take note of key words

“Definitely look for the ‘key words’ in a job ad. Before crafting your cover letter and resume, study the job ad for the key words – soft and hard skills – that the employer is looking for. For example, for a Biotech Lab Assistant role, the job ad may specifically ask for skills in sample preparation, quality assurance and GMP. Include all these on your CV.” 

Create a key skills section on your CV

“Your resume should include about 10-15 technical skills that relate to what you’ve studied. Then, through the job ad analysis you undertake, you should list the top 5-7 that the advertisement refers to.”

Don’t have much experience? Include uni assignments

“Graduates should showcase two to three key university projects on their resumes. This is the next best thing to experience! Each project should include the project name, overview/objective, key tasks and the outcome.”

Avoid using buzzwords

“Avoid words like ‘hard working, team player, multitasker or great communicator’. Replace these with tangible technical skills, which you can demonstrate through project examples.”

Always give examples

“In an interview, in each answer you give it’s good to include an example from a uni project/internship/past experience (even if it’s in an unrelated area). Aim to speak for 60 – 90 seconds and your answer needs to tell a story. 

“Start with a quick introduction like ‘Sure, well I have strong knowledge in X, for example, at uni I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved in a group project where the main focus was in X.

“Always include evidence. Use phrases like “For example…” or “Sure, well as an example, in my final year project, I was involved in…”

Do an internship or work experience

“Paid or unpaid work experience is critical! If 10 graduates apply for one STEM position, and five have unpaid industry experience (eg a summer internship), those five will most likely go to the top of the interview pile.

“You learn so much while on the job – experience in diverse teams, how to share knowledge, and most of all, you get to apply what you have been learning at TAFE or uni in a real world setting.”

Don’t stress about landing your dream gig straight away

“STEM can translate in to many fields – and you might not end up where you thought! For example science graduates can work in policy or research and a mechanical engineering graduate could work on Civil related projects. 

“Be flexible – once you have your first one to two years of professional experience, then you can be more selective. The most important thing is to get your foot in the door with a good company.”


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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