Guest post by the Stemettes: Two important pieces of advice for anyone applying for STEM jobs

The Stemettes project run panel events, hackathons and exhibitions for students, in particular girls, to learn more about the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). We often have a large number of girls coming to our events. Those at GCSE level and above usually have the same types of questions and concerns when they talk to the Stemettes.

Many are applying to STEM roles and want to get the advice to make the best of their job search. Here are two things we always tell them:

First of all, we talk CVs.


Right now, it’s an employer’s market. We have all seen headlines informing us that there are “200 applicants for each job opening” and so on. In this climate we need to take care to make our CVs stand out from the vast swathes of other applicants. A lot of the applicants you will be competing against will be shouting loudly and confidently about their skills.

Those new to the job search typically undersell themselves and their skill set on a CV. They are usually more honest about what they think they can do. For example, one student that one of the Stemettes has helped in writing her CV was concerned about including SQL in her technical skills section. She was applying for a junior position after graduating university and therefore her experience of it was academic study and a little practical experience from coursework and labs. For this particular position, her level of experience was more than adequate.

The important thing to remember is your CV is just a ticket you craft to get to an interview. If you have an understanding of something and a little experience, then include it. The exact details can be discussed in an interview.

With this in mind, don’t feel the need to explain yourself further on a CV or omit a skill for one simple reason: your competition will not think twice about confidently declaring the same skill. If you think about it, the industry standard of what employers are expecting is set by the CVs that they are receiving. They know this, your competition is doing this, and you know it too.

Simple tip: Don’t undersell yourself. Be as confident as your competition.

Secondly – salary.

It’s common knowledge that on average, men earn a higher salary than women. The reasons for this are a complex mix of social and human factors – which mean very little to an individual in the process of gaining employment. Many do not ask for a higher salary – whether that be at their annual review or at the initial offer of employment. The advice is very simple – ask for more because, again, your counterparts will be doing the same.

Negotiation is difficult and can make us feel any number of things – uncomfortable, cheeky, greedy – but the truth is if your counterparts are asking and receiving there is no reason you should not do the same. There are many articles online to provide advice on negotiating more earnings that will apply to your specific situation, if you feel you need to be more prepared. You can create your own plan of action in how to carry this out.

If you are doing the asking after the initial offer of employment, never be afraid that the offer will be rescinded. That’s why it’s called salary negotiation – the employer can say no and you can reply with another figure. Bear in mind, they have already said they want to employ you and you being bold and asking for a higher salary can only show you in a good light as a confident and forward employee.

However, I reiterate, just ask. Be brave and consider your request for a higher salary a contribution to your own future success. Starting at a higher salary point means you’ll earn more over time. And next time you need to negotiate your salary you’ll already have some practice under your belt.

Simple tip: Ask for a higher salary when the opportunity presents itself.

So, in summary, be bold and confident when writing your CVs by shouting as loudly as your competition about what you can do.  When this CV leads to an interview and an offer of employment, don’t sell yourself short again and ask for a higher salary.

To be kept up to date on the Stemettes and opportunities for you to ask your own questions about career advice, sign up to our mailing list, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.


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