Friday, 15 June 2018

Not got the degree result you were hoping for?

I know the results are out now/soon. Hope you got what you wanted or needed.

Some people can be a bit worried if they get a 2.2 or a 3rd and they were expecting a 2./1st. It IS true that some big graduate employers specify a 2.1 or higher, but this is not true for all. Even the most popular recruiters sometimes take a more flexible approach. A 2.2/3rd might make it a bit harder and it might take longer, but if you spend some time researching employers (talking to them even!) you might be surprised by the opportunities that are open to you. Smaller employers are even more flexible and are usually more interested in your personality.

TargetJobs have a great post on the subject and it handily lists just some of the employers that are happy to look at your application with a 2.2/3rd. I won't list them all here, there's loads of them and you can see for yourself. There are some surprises - eg The Big 4 financial services firms used to be pretty rigid about having at least a 2.1 but now even they have relaxed a bit, with EY and Deloitte no longer screening you out. The Intellectual Property Office, NHS management scheme, National Grid, Jaguar Land Rover and (some) Civil Service Fast Stream roles also consider sub 2.1s.

I noted that Charles River Laboratories currently have over 100 jobs worldwide for chemists (including 8 in Tranent, 13 in rest of UK). Speaking to their HR officer today, she told me  they welcome Honours degrees of ANY grade. If you do look at their website, ignore the closing dates - HR informed me that if a vacancy is on the website, it's still available even if the closing date was a month ago (could be why they're not getting many applicants).

Some other employers accept a 2.2 as long as you go on and do a PG Masters or PhD afterwards. The NHS Trainee Clinical Scientist (Biochemistry) scheme is one example of this. Interestingly, there are currently Traineeships advertised for Glasgow and Edinburgh. Closing date 22 June. NB: Chemistry is happily accepted as a degree subject for Biochemistry, though it helps to emphasise any Medicinal and Biological courses you have taken.

I think the message here is ALWAYS ASK, even if it says 2.1. If you are keen on the job and think you could do the job, ask them if they would welcome your application.

Good Luck!

Friday, 8 June 2018

Chemists and chemical engineers - looking for graduate jobs or internships?

Are you still looking (or just starting looking) for your first graduate job? Or an internship?

Here are a couple of useful pdfs I have recently updated (4 pages each) covering where to look for graduate jobs, internships and summer work in a chemistry or chemical engineering field.

There are sections on academia, industry, renewable sector, getting your own funding, working abroad, employer databases (for applying speculatively) and many other ways to further your career.

If you've not got these, you're honestly missing out, because I have done all the leg work here! I update them get every year. You will need your MyEd login to access them


Chemical Engineering

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Something a bit different - a career in film?

Have you ever had a hankering to do something creative? Perhaps combine the arts with science/engineering or maybe choose a different direction altogether?  Not sure where to start?

This year's Edinburgh International Film Festival  runs from June 20th - July 2nd and has a dedicated youth strand, The Young & the Wild, aimed at people aged 15-25.

They are offering 10 days of free filmmaking masterclasses, workshops, dedicated careers advice sessions and special events designed to help young people gain knowledge and insight into the film industry. Classes such as How to get your foot in the door to Cinematography, Animation, Screenwriting, Documentary-making, Film journalism and much much more. You can go to as many or as few events as you like, so you might be able to fit it in around summer work, travel, or even before starting your first graduate job.

Full programme available @ for more information and to get your £5 pass. There are travel bursaries available to support travel from outside Edinburgh. 

Friday, 18 May 2018

Case Study - Entrepreneur/Consultant - EY. (Plus....What IS Blockchain?)

Name - Martin Jeret
Degree - MChem (Hons) Medicinal and Biological Chemistry with a Year Abroad, U of Edinburgh
Year of Graduation - 2017
Martin's Linkedin profile

My Career History
  • Worked 2 summers in the hospitality industry (2012, 2013). Continued this during 2nd Year of university
  • Worked 2 summers in the US as an independent contractor for Southwestern Advantage selling books door-to-door. (2014, 2015). This job and various scholarships is how I paid my way through uni without any loans.
  • My 4th year summer I started my first company – Backpack Chat. This is an app that shows you where your friends are travelling on a map. I made a business case, designed the product and recruited a team of 6 to build the app. It’s available on Android and a scrappy MVP is still on iOS. I did this while simultaneously working at another start-up called Tuleva. Tuleva is a pension collectors union and I joined a team of 4 to raise € 3M in 3 month to start a mutual pension fund that belongs to pension collectors.
  • During my 5th year I also started to build a product in eHealth – a patient health record dashboard for doctors. I designed the product and had a team, but the vision with my business partner didn’t align well and I left the team about 3 or 4 months afterwards. The product was called Patient 3.0.

I was conscripted to the Estonian defence forces after graduation, but managed to avoid it. Since graduation I had to pay my bills and because I couldn’t get recruited by employers (due to the conscription I was avoiding), I started a new business: consulting. I had my first clients and I mostly worked on their products (build and design stuff), business operations and data analytics. I operated under Backpack Chat Ltd and actually did manage to pay my bills!

Recently I joined EY (Ernst & Young) as a consultant and I still offer my services as an independent contractor outside of EY as well.

Where was your EY job advertised? 
I went to a careers fair with 100 CV’s, business cards and an Ipad. I knew beforehand which jobs I was interested in and looked for the recruiters and decision makers at the stalls. I think I left a good impression, got the interviews and picked a job I liked the sound of, having done my background research into the positions on offer.

Which other organisations offer similar roles?
Others in the Big4 (KPMG, Deloitte, PWC), Accenture, McKinsey, Bain etc.

Can you describe what your job entails or a typical week in your job? With your crystal ball, what does the future for your sector/job look like?
  • Go to work at 8 and make some coffee.
  • Work behind a desk on a project, using a wide range of tools/skills for specific task. 
  • Have meeting with the client or team; continue work; have lunch; repeat; the end.
  • The future looks Cool – I get to work on innovative projects in Artificial Intelligence within a legal framework, currently designing coworking platforms for architects …....(like if Google Drive and CAD had a baby), *Blockchain projects. There’s so much interesting stuff happening right now. 

Best/Worst parts of the job
I get to work with talented and smart people / Clients are not always right.

How have you used the skills and knowledge from your degree in your job?
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are very useful. Also, the way you approach big projects like your placement year or final year project. Finally, time management - being able to study for 6 exams worth 120 credits in 2 months is a worth while skill.

Is there anything you wish you had done in your past to make it easier to get where you are today?
Learn programming as fast as you can. Start with Python and build something as soon as you can.

What advice would you give to students wishing to enter your field of work?
Everyone can be smart and criticise. If you have an idea on how we can improve something about our lives/society or whatever, go on and do it, build something, don’t let it sit in the back of your head.
Fail fast and try again and again.

*If you don't know what Blockchain is, here is the simplest example/definition I could find (thanks to Deloitte website): 

You (a "node") have a file of transactions on your computer (a "ledger"). Two government accountants (let's call them "miners") have the same file on theirs (so it’s "distributed"). As you make a transaction, your computer sends an e-mail to each accountant to inform them. Each accountant rushes to be the first to check whether you can afford it (and be paid their salary "Bitcoins"). The first to check and validate hits “REPLY ALL”, attaching their logic for verifying the transaction ("Proof of Work"). If the other accountant agrees, everyone updates their file. This concept is enabled by Blockchain technology. 

The technology is now used beyond cryptocurrency - eg in contracts, music sharing, energy, voting, registries, cloud computing. For further details of other uses of Blockchain - see the Wikipedia entry. 

Each of the Big Four accounting firms is testing Blockchain technologies in various formats. In Switzerland, EY has provided cryptocurrency wallets to all (Swiss) employees, has installed a bitcoin ATM in their office in Switzerland, and accepts bitcoin as payment for all its consulting services.

Sounds like an excellent idea to have a bit of knowledge of Blockchain technology if you are keen to enter the consultancy & finance sectors. There are plenty of MOOCs (massive open online courses) available and free to use. For example, here is one specifically for complete novices with a slant towards the energy industry; - MOOC Blockchain in Energy Industry

Friday, 11 May 2018

De La Rue - Materials scientist wanted

Never heard of De La Rue? - their products are in your pocket as we speak (or you wish they were!)

Established over 200 years ago, De La Rue work with governments, central banks and commercial organisations around the globe in three core areas:

  • Cash Supply Chain, producing banknotes (they helped create the polymer £5 notes from Bank of Scotland that keep bouncing themselves out of my purse)
  • Citizen Identity including passports and identity management
  • Product Authentication protecting brands and fighting counterfeiting.

And they currently have a vacancy in UK for a graduate chemist or chemical engineer. They have worldwide geographical locations and I notice they also have premises in Malta - very nice.

Thanks to my colleague Susan Bird for flagging this up.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

International Students - want to work in the UK after graduation?

Are you an international student coming to the end of your degree?

Do you want to work in the UK after graduation?

I know many of you would love the opportunity to stay on and work here after your degree. This is certainly a possibility, but it does require a fair bit of effort, groundwork and tenacity.

To work in the UK under Tier 2 provision you must be sponsored by an employer listed on the Home Office Register of Sponsors. You can check whether potential employers are already on the existing list which holds over 29,000 employers. However, just because a certain employer has sponsored international graduates in the past, it doesn't mean they would necessarily do it for you now. And just because they're NOT on the list, it doesn't mean they would NOT do it for you now if you are the right candidate. So not the most helpful document on the planet, but it's a place to start!

To qualify for a Tier 2 visa the job you are applying for must to pay at least £20,800, or the new entrant industry minimum, whichever is higher and the role must be graduate level employment, for more details check the Home Office website.

There are other types of visa and Edinburgh Global provides a breakdown of the types that may be available to students after graduating, as well as good information and advice on your situation.

To help you communicate your situation to potential employers, Edinburgh Global has drafted the following paragraph which you can use in job applications:

"I currently hold a Tier 4 visa which allows me to work 20 hours per week during term time, full time during vacation periods, and full time in a temporary position once I have finished my studies. As a Tier 4 visa holder who would make a Tier 2 application inside the UK, I am exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test, and from restricted Certificate of Sponsorship, once I have successfully completed my studies.  I am also exempt from the Migrant Skills Levy. I am permitted to start full-time, permanent employment as soon as I have submitted a Tier 2 visa application.”

Hope this helps to get you started. Note that much of this information has been taken from the Edinburgh Global website. (Careers Service staff are not allowed to give advice on visas).

Friday, 27 April 2018

How to stay motivated when studying

I am sure right now you will be desperately trying to cram a year's academic work into your heads. Finding it tough? How can you stay motivated to study?  

Naturejobs have just published an interactive infographic which suggests we are either Upholders, Questioners, Obligers or Rebels in response to time pressures - which one are you? This is not entirely a waste of time - it does give good tips on how to get/stay motivated.

"What motivates you?" is also a common interview question, so even more reason to find out what makes you tick - Our Career Service blog Inform.ed has a new post on the subject.

Here are my top tips - common sense mostly, but maybe reading them will help you get a bit of focus:

  1. Don’t question your abilities. Don’t put yourself down by comparing yourself to others.
  2. Visualise yourself starting. Make yourself sit down and work even if this is for just 20 minutes. 
  3. Focus on the most important bits of the course (rather than the bits you enjoy most). Avoid multitasking.
  4. Communicate to others what you intend to do. This might help you to commit to a schedule and you could also find out others points of view and tips. 
  5. Ask yourself  ‘how much can I realistically achieve in the next 2 hours?’ instead of the overwhelming ‘Can I get through the entire Chemistry 1 notes tonight?’   
  6. Remember studying SHOULD be challenging otherwise everyone would have a degree.  Focus on the outcome and not the struggle to get there.
  7. Give yourself a treat for every four hours (not necessarily continuous) study. I'm thinking an episode of The Bridge?, Westworld? (new seasons coming soon). A (large) tub of Häagen-Dazs Salted Caramel all to yourself? 8 hours sleep? 5 mile walk?
All the very best for the next few weeks.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Ireland - punching above its weight in pharma

Did you know that Ireland hosts 9 of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies? Surprised me too. But you'll have heard of most of them -  Pfizer, Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead are some of the big names.

Over the past two decades the number of biopharma companies in Ireland has jumped from about 50 to over 300, and many are expanding. In October 2017, both Johnson & Johnson and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals announced significant Irish site expansions. Regeneron plans to create 300 new jobs in Limerick as part of a $100m (£76m) extension of the company’s campus there, which is one of the largest biologic production operations in the world. And they'll all still be in the EU next year!

BiopharmGuy lists over 70 Irish pharma sites and Chemistry World has a good summary of the pros and cons of living in Ireland.

Not to be outdone, Northern Ireland is hot on its neighbour's heels - the pharma sector there currently employs over 7500 people and contributes £800m to the local economy each year. And these figures are forecast to double by the year 2020. Is a big recruitment drive is imminent? The main recruiters include the Almac Group, Randox and Norbrook. 

Northern Ireland is also blazing a trail in renewables and energy industry. A £9.5m environmental resource park is being developed in the outskirts of Belfast and aims to attract the very best talent in clean technology.

InvestNI has good employer directories in life sciences, materials and energy for Northern Ireland. I still like BiopharmGuy for great big comprehensive lists of companies, but you can't search on Northern Ireland, just UK as a whole. Chemistry World gives a good summary of life in Northern Ireland.

Worth a thought?

Thursday, 29 March 2018

CASE STUDY - Technical Support Engineer - INEOS O & P

  • Name -  Claire  Black
  • Degree – Masters Industrial Engineering (Chemical, 1st class), Heriot Watt University 
  • Year of Graduation - 2016  

Brief career history, including current job title & employer
In my last year of high school, I applied to Ineos’ Engineers of the Future programme based in their Petrochemicals plant in Grangemouth – which appealed as it combined practical, ‘hands on’ experience with a university degree qualification. For the first two years of this programme time was split between attaining an HNC/HND in Process Operations at Forth Valley College and completing an SVQ in Process Technology on the Polymers plant Grangemouth. The practical experience and hands on skills I obtained through doing the SVQ was invaluable when it came to going to Heriot Watt university in my third year of the programme, as it enabled me to understand the theory aspects more by comparing it to what I had seen happen in practice. Fourth and fifth year research projects were carried out on the Ineos site involving real problems and processes on site, which again was beneficial as it provided an understanding over projects are carried out in industry.
Currently I am employed by Ineos O&P UK, and my role is a technical support engineer on the Polymers asset. 

Where was your current job advertised/how you found it, why it appealed, what attributes the organisation was looking for!
As I had a different route to my current job as compared to most chemical engineering graduates, I did not find it in the same manner. I heard about the Engineer of the Future role through word of mouth, however it was advertised in local newpapers.
The main reason it appealed was that it allowed you to obtain a university degree however with the benefit of practical/ hands on experience through all stages of the degree.

Which other organisations offer similar roles?
At the time I applied for the Ineos Engineers of the Future role, the only other company I was aware of which did a similar programme was FMC.
However currently, there are some other companies that offer a similar role such as Exxon Mobil, Syngenta and McFarlan Smith. Ineos have actually paused the Engineers of the Future programme for the time being.     

Can you describe what your job entails or a typical week in your job? With your crystal ball, what does the future for your sector/job look like?
My job entails supporting the asset if they have any technical enquiries or issues affecting safety, production or operation. Recording and investigating key KPI data which relates to Process safety, whilst also take on the role of a study engineer for projects on the Polymers asset.
The future for the Petrochemicals industry will be hard and uncertain, however if companies continue to invest in new technologies and sustainable feedstocks the future of the industry will be more secure. 

 Best/Worst parts of the job
Best part of the job is getting involved in different projects and constantly working with different disciplines, which enables you to continually learn from these people.
Worst part of the job is sometimes you work on things that you are not familiar with, which means you are required to do a lot of self-learning.  

How have you used the skills and knowledge from your degree in your job?
In my day-to-day role I use a lot of skills that were developed during my degree, especially in relation to team work.  

What extra curricular experience (eg work experience, volunteering, societies, sports, interests etc) do you believe helped you get where you are today?
The benefit of getting continued practical experience throughout my degree was definitely key in where I am today. However I think it is important that people are involved in different societies and interests when studying at university, or just in general. I was a member of my universities rowing club, and also an active member of my local young farmers group. I feel this helped me in learning how to communicate and work with a wide range of people – which is an important skill to have in the chemical industry. I feel very privileged to get the opportunity I had through the Engineers of the Future programme as it has definitely has helped me get to a job which I enjoy and am constantly challenged every day.  

What advice would you give to students wishing to enter your field of work?
I would advise students to try and get as much work experience as possible either in their field of work, or in terms of a part time job as any experience is good experience. 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Case Study - Assistant Product Manager - INEOS

Olivia Steele studied Physics at the University of Edinburgh, but her role is open to chemistry and chemical engineering graduates. In fact, Olivia wishes now that she had more of a background in chemistry for her current position!

      Degree Subject
Masters of Physics with Honours Astrophysics, U of Edinburgh, graduated July 2015.

Brief career history, including current job title & employer
I started working for INEOS as a commercial graduate in Cologne, September 2015. I was out there for almost two years and had two roles in that time: ethylene operator and polymers performance analyst. From May of last year, I have been Assistant Product Manager for INEOS Olefins & Polymers Europe, based in Grangemouth.

Where was your current job was advertised/how did you find it, what was the appeal, what attributes were the organisation looking for?
I met INEOS at the Edinburgh University Careers fair and so applied online. I was keen to start a new challenge and the commercial graduate scheme was a perfect fit. It appealed to me because INEOS wanted graduates who studied a STEM subject, even for the commercial roles. They appreciated the analytical/numerical skills and problem solving I had learned through university.

Which other organisations offer similar roles?
Most other petrochemical companies offer similar roles, however with INEOS you are given real responsibilities from day one. The company offer lots of support and give you space to expand your role with time.

Can you describe what your job entails or a typical week in your job? With your crystal ball, what does the future for your sector/job look like?
I am responsible for the day-to-day planning of all our chemical products we make on site. This means working with our customers and consumers, the shipping team, different assets and taking part in many cross-optimisation conversations. The future for my current role looks exciting – I am beginning to learn more about cracker economics, getting involved in market analysis and taking part in some long-term projects.

Best/Worst parts of the job
Best part of the job is that every day is different (not a clich̩!) and I get to interact with various teams both on site here in Grangemouth and abroad. Worst part of the job is that I have to deal with unforeseen complications Рbut only sometimes!

How have you used the skills and knowledge from your degree in your job?
Creative problem solving helps when dealing with certain issues and analytical thinking is needed not only for day-to-day planning discussions but also to work out the most cost effective solution in a time-pressured environment.

What extra-curricular experience (eg work experience, volunteering, societies, sports, interests etc) do you believe helped you get where you are today? 
      I have had a range of different types of work experience - as a shop assistant, a waitress, a summer research student at the observatory and as a research assistant for a company who make sports equipment in Austria – these were all great opportunities to learn about different techniques, improve communication skills and develop customer relations. Being involved in societies and sports also helps with organisational skills and working with different types of people.

Is there anything you wish you HAD done in your past to make it easier to get where you are today?
Perhaps taken some more chemistry modules at university… it’s been a bit of a learning curve!

What advice would you give to students wishing to enter your field of work?
The petrochemical industry is fast paced – make sure you are ready for a challenge, it won’t disappoint!