There is something of a misconception about careers in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. While many people believe there is a constant shortage of workers in these fields, the reality is somewhat different. The truth is that the STEM shortage tends to be down to the sheer broadness of the field, and the fact that when you drill down into the disciplines themselves, they tend to be non-transferable. For example, someone who studies biomechanical engineering, it’s a highly specific qualification, and if they can’t find work, they will have to retrain – the same route they would take if they studied Classics or History.
So, while there might be a shortage of workers to fill every available STEM role, it’s not down to a lack of students taking STEM subjects. And there is fierce competition for those roles, too. If you want to get ahead in your science, technology, engineering or math career, it is essential that you build up your skill set as much as possible, as well as your educational portfolio. With this in mind, here are some of the skills you need to get ahead in a STEM career.
First and foremost, STEM roles are about solving problems. Employers want to see your ability to take an issue and create a solution that is efficient and valuable. Not only that, but you will need to solve multiple problems at the same time. Employers usually ask candidates to address hypothetical problems, too, in an attempt to see their thought processes and how they go about their work. So, focus on learning how to solve problems in the simplest possible way if you want to excel in a STEM career.
So, how do you go about ensuring your solutions are most the efficient? By using your brain to think critically and making the best possible decision based on the evidence in front of you. You must be able to approach every problem from multiple perspectives, analyze every solution, and have reasoning behind your final decision based on the consequences and outcomes of each possibility. It’s this ability to think from multiple directions that will impress an employer, and help you stand out front the crowd.
Analyze this, that, and everything
Sharpen your analytical skills if you want a long and prosperous career in the STEM industry. You will need to be able to look at large sets of data and be able to spot patterns with ease. Complicated information from multiple sources is going to be an everyday problem, and it’s vital that you can analyze and interpret this data to perfection.
As we discussed in the intro, STEM careers tend to be non-transferable, highly specific, and require a lot of precise knowledge. So, given that a graduate education will supply you with proficiency in a general area, you can be more specific by continuing your education. For example, if you are pursuing a role in a research lab, becoming a Science Master can help your application stand out. What is a Professional Science Master? Put simply, it’s someone that has taken the next step in their education and really put a focus on one particular area, whether it’s nutrition, computer engineering, or psychology, amongst other subjects. It tells prospective employers that you have highly specialized skills, and it is an impressive addition to your armor when it comes to finding the perfect role.
Many employers in STEM industries like to hire people that share the same values. And given that there is an increasing trend for STEM companies to embrace social responsibility, it’s a good idea to ensure you can demonstrate similar attitudes with how you work and deal with others.
If you are looking for a role in the business world, you must be able to demonstrate your ability to put the client first. Pretty much every business out there is customer-focused, so you’ll need to be able to listen to your client’s needs, and create solutions that help them achieve their goals, or reduce their pain points.
You can be the cleverest person in your field, but if you can’t communicate your ideas and work correctly, you will struggle to reach the top. Communicating ideas is essential in STEM industries, as you will be sharing them with people from all kinds of different backgrounds. Some of these people will have technical knowledge, while others – such as your customers or sales team – may not. As Einstein once said, if you can’t explain something to a six-year-old, the chances are that you don’t understand it yourself.
When you consider the huge amount of roles at STEM companies, it’s vital that you can work well in a team. While you will be working on one particular part of a product, for example, there will be other teams working on others – and you all need to pull together if you plan on having any kind of success. So, make sure you have plenty of evidence about being involved in high-performing teams, and a few tales of how you helped with their success. It will help prospective employers form a positive impression of your attitudes towards teamwork.
One of the most challenging aspects of working in STEM is that by the time you qualify from college and get a job, technology has already moved on. While employers will understand this point, it is also important to remember that they want to see evidence of your adaptability. And, you will need to show how you have picked up new skills and abilities quickly and easily. You’ll need to demonstrate smart thinking and a commitment to learning new subject matter, whether it’s evidence of a recent education or a work training course.
Finally, bear in mind that STEM employers understand how easy it is for people to burn out. Don’t assume that showing off your ability to work for 24 hours straight will impress them – they are more likely to question your productivity and decision making. Instead, you should demonstrate your passions outside of your work-related field.