Friday, 26 February 2016

Dealing with job rejections

 It's not nice. Rejection really does suck.

It's that time of year when I start to see final year chemists and engineers who have had their confidence knocked a bit by one or more job rejections. Everybody copes with rejection differently - last week, I saw one chemical engineer who had applied cheerfully for 28 jobs before he got one and another who was completely devastated when he was rejected from the only job he had applied for.

If you have applied for numerous jobs without success, there is every chance you might start to lose focus and feel out of control with your situation. And whilst there is value in widening your job search and thinking creatively about where you may find success, it’s important to also stay focused.

One way to maintain focus is to know your strengths, skills and motivations and to develop a job search strategy aligned to these areas. This will help you to write a great CV, stand out in the short listing, perform well at interview and network effectively.

Develop a strategy to shape what happens. For example, you can control the type and number of jobs you apply for, you can make the time to write a tailored CV and you can invest in preparation for an interview. In the face of rejection letters or lack of success at interview, focus on what you can learn from the situation, build on the positives and plan the next steps.

Ask yourself:
  • What can you do differently to increase your chances of being shortlisted for interview?
  • What improvements can you make to your CV?
  • How can you prepare more effectively for an interview?

Confidence and self-belief
Even the most resilient of us are likely to experience a knock to confidence levels in the face of a protracted job search. So focus on your strengths, reminding yourself at regular intervals of your achievements and what you do well.

If you are not in current employment, take on a part-time, temporary post or do some voluntary work so that you can build your confidence and your skills, alongside your job search for a permanent job.

Ask yourself:
  • What are my key achievements?
  • What are my key strengths and skills?
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • How can I maintain confidence and self-belief in the face of setbacks?

Summary of tips

  • Retain a positive attitude and self-belief (watch out for negative self talk)
  • Spend time getting to know yourself – your strengths, skills and motivations
  • In face of setbacks, remind yourself of your achievements and strengths
  • Shift your thinking from the negatives of the challenge to the opportunities it presents
  • Handle rejection in a positive way and learn from the experience
  • Build a support network around you
  • Support yourself in a challenging situation and give yourself permission for feelings such as disappointment
  • Take time out to recharge and achieve a balanced perspective
  • Think creatively about opportunities and alternative job search strategies
  • Be proactive, take action
Adapted from an article in 

Saturday, 20 February 2016

How much should I get paid?

I have just been playing with a new app that tells you how much you are "worth" just by looking at your CV. Value My CV looks at over 100 data points in your CV, from education, previous employment and skills, and uses that data to calculate your market rate. It was created by the same data scientist who worked on Rightmove’s house price algorithm.

As well as a statistical estimate of your salary, you will see suggested jobs, CV improvements and career pathways.There is also a word cloud which points out which skills you are specifically emphasising in your CV.

HOWEVER, I uploaded two slightly different versions of my CV and got two very different answers of my worth (I'll take the £50K one thanks).  Also, the Career Explorer bit (which suggests alternative jobs) suggested I manage a pub. Since I don't like loud music, alcohol, late nights or drunk people, I can't see that somehow! So, don't take it too seriously, but it's a grand time waster if you are supposed to be studying.

You can try Value My CV here.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

CASE STUDY - Chemical Engineer - BPI

Kevin Blackadder
BEng Chemical Engineering 2010, University of Edinburgh

I graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2010 with a BEng Hons (2:2) in Chemical Engineering. Initially I was disappointed at not being offered a position on the MEng course, but after some research into the types of employers and opportunities that were available to me with a BEng, I realised I could still get to where I wanted to be just with a slightly different route.

From my experience, most chemical engineers dream of walking straight into an oil and gas position but, I have found that most petrochemical companies prefer the candidate to have a Masters degree. However there are many companies which only look for Bachelors level in fields such as manufacturing, brewing and distilling and many other downstream fields.

When searching for my current job I found the website Gradcracker to be very useful as you could see right away the level of degree that employers were expecting and surprisingly quite a few only look for BEng level.

During the interview process I knew I would be asked why I only achieved a BEng and never went for a MEng. I got round this by explaining that I preferred to gain experience in industry rather than a further year of study. The interviewer focused a great deal on my extra curricular activities and previous achievements asking about my time as head boy and football captain. My study prior to the interview also came in useful as my knowledge of lean production in the manufacturing industry seemed to impress the interviewer.

I have been at BPI for 2 years now. I spent 6 months on the shop floor on shifts and learning the business from the grass roots. I was then promoted to the technical team in which my duties involved technical approvals, research and development of products and designs and testing of the products. I have recently been given a departmental managerial position by my director as a first step in my production management development.

I was very happy to be offered the graduate position at BPI and although not as closely related to my degree as I would like, this has opened up some great opportunities for me in manufacturing and allowed me to gain valuable experience which will help me further develop my career.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

CASE STUDY - Director of TEFL school, TEFL Iberia

Richard Davie

MChem 2008, University of Edinburgh

Post by Richard Davie, a 2008 Edinburgh MChem graduate who is now the Director of Studies of TEFL Iberia, an English teacher training course in Barcelona. He is keen to hear from Edinburgh students who are interested in short or long term opportunities in the TEFL sector. Coming from a Chemistry background, he is particularly aware of the benefits a science/engineering degree confers when managing projects in any career area.

After graduating in 2008 I decided to take a little break from chemistry and go to Barcelona for a summer adventure. The plan was to let off some steam after 5 years of hard studying and work in a bar, learn a little Spanish and come back to the UK at the end of the summer to get a 'proper job'. However, I had such a good time that I wanted to extend my visit, so I thought I'd try my hand at teaching English (working in a bar wasn't a long-term career plan after completing a Masters degree). So when I came home for Christmas that year I completed a short TEFL course and returned to Barcelona to find a job.

Looking for a job was fairly straight forward, there are a few key websites in Barcelona where all the jobs are posted so with a bit of consistent effort I was able to get a full-time teaching job within a couple of weeks. I really enjoyed it, I was doing in-company classes which meant I was sent to various businesses to teach English to the bosses and employees. It was incredibly varied in that I got to see the inner workings of lots of different companies and got to know all the different neighbourhoods of Barcelona.

After gaining a few years of experience I then got a job on the in-house TEFL course of the school I worked for. I was now training new teachers and enjoying it even more; it was very satisfying working with people who were new in the city and so enthusiastic to be starting a new career.  

Admittedly the wages in Barcelona are not fantastic, you can rent a nice flat and have a good time at the weekend but it's not comparable to a UK graduate wage from 2007. If you want to make decent money in this industry then you have to go it alone, i.e. set up your own business.

People always ask me 'what was the point in studying chemistry?' and the answer is very simple. I gained so many transferable skills from studying at Edinburgh university that have helped me immensely in setting up a business - logical thinking, information collection and management, being organised, public speaking and managing projects, to name a few. If anything, studying Chemistry teaches you to work hard and not wimp out on a difficult task!

For more information about training to be an TEFL teacher or finding a job abroad get in touch with Richard and TEFL Iberia:

Telephone: +34 934 875 116

CASE STUDY - Chemical Engineer - AB Sugar China

Shaun Farquhar

BEng Chemical Engineering with Management 2009, University of Edinburgh

I work in the sugar industry, a marginal-profit operating FMCG industry. I work for AB Sugar China, part of Associated British Foods. We process sugar beet and cane to sugar around the world. I love my job, and its probably one of the most complex engineering operations to run. Its never really steady-state. I've worked in running shift teams, process design, optimisation projects and feasibility studies. The feasibility studies varied from basic: "What is the ROI on installing another evaporator", to very off-the-wall ideas submitted by anyone in the company. I once saw a 30-page study into the economics of "Can we put cows out by the effluent treatment system, feed them waste sugar beet pulp, and milk them to make ice-cream downstream?". It very nearly went ahead!

My current job involves Process Engineering evaluation, design & commissioning of capital submissions from 7 factories in China. During the processing season (4-6 months) I work as a process consultant, troubleshooting issues & providing training & support. We have very low education levels in the Chinese factories, so I have to explain to Factory Managers & operators what pH is, and what happens if it is too high or low, and how they should improve control. It's a very hands-on job here, there is little to no automation or on-line monitoring except for accounting purposes. Its extremely fun, even if people do stop their cars on the street and shout "Hey foreigner!" in Mongolian dialect.

Food production has some of the widest ranges of Unit Operations, many sugar factories are turning into biorefineries. We've got everything from Sugar Cane hammer crushers, chromatography, distillation (alcohol from molasses) and even acid hydrolysis tanks for producing bio-alternatives to petrochemicals, like furfural. My first factory used their CHP boiler CO2, waste heat & 7th Evaporation Effect condensate for growing tomatoes in Europe's biggest greenhouse!

When changing down to a BEng, I was advised that I probably wouldn't be able to find a job as a professional engineer due to the focus on MEng as standard. But jobs where personality, experience & soft skills are a focus, e.g. Operations Management, Safety, Environmental, Energy Reduction are usually OK. You also have the benefit of having a degree that shows numeracy and critical thinking, so almost any non-Engineering job is available. A lot of analyst consultants & people in Finance are Engineers or Chemists.

I didn't feel limited in employment options, basically anything that's not Petrochemicals is possible. At no point were my qualifications discussed as issues at any interview, and everyone in similar job roles is given equal respect, whether they started in the company as apprentices, MEng from Cambridge or even as a filter bag changer. Your attitude and willingness to learn are the main factors.

A lot of graduate recruiters use assessment centres, and at these the assessors really don't look at whether you've got a BEng, MEng or PhD, its about how you work with other people, and critical thinking skills. Qualifications might be a deciding factor in a very neck-and-neck selection if you studied a relevant MEng module. Many places will value a 2:1 or 1st BEng over a 2:2 MEng.

If you are worried long-term about the job limitations of a BEng, or Chartership, the IChemE actually do a "Demonstration of further learning to MEng equivalence" certification. About 12-18 months into your first job you can submit a report & have an interview with the IChemE, and if they think you show sufficient learning you get an MEng equivalency, which then can lead to Chartership following the normal route.

I haven't done this because my company doesn't value MEng or CEng, unless I want to work on major projects as a lead process designer & process HAZOP leader, but I was told by the IChemE last year that my work was above MEng equivalency and not far from Chartership.

Overall, I'm really glad I didn't study an MEng, it saved me money & time, and in no way affected my career options/earnings. I may be an exception though, this is just my personal experience.  If you are interested in petrochemicals or design work, definitely do a Masters.

My best advice would be to start looking for jobs in the industry you are interested in very early, check the minimum qualification requirements and decide from there. Getting work experience beforehand is also very important. Non-engineering work is equally valid, especially if you apply for a management job.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Where did Edinburgh Chemists go after graduation in 2014?


Below are listed the destinations for chemists graduating in 2014. The data was collected 6 months after graduation. To provide sufficient PhD data, we have amalgamated 3 years of destination information.

BSc Chemistry destinations 2014

MChem destinations 2014

MChem with Industrial Experience or a Year Abroad destinations 2014

PhD Chemistry destinations 2014

Where did Edinburgh Chemical Engineers go after graduation in 2014?

Chemical Engineering

Below are listed the destinations for chemical engineers graduating in 2014. The data was collected 6 months after graduation.

To provide sufficient PhD data, we have amalgamated 3 years of destination information using ALL engineering disciplines.

MEng Chemical Engineering 2014

PhD Engineering 2014

Friday, 5 February 2016

Environmental and Sustainable Careers - ECO Week 8th-12th Feb at U of E

Would you like to use your chemistry or chemical engineering degree to help the environment?

No matter what stage you’re at in your career planning, this is a great opportunity to get vital information to help you secure that placement or graduate job.

The ECO week programme varies from interactive workshops, through to employer presentations and a 'walk and talk' tour, not forgetting the ever popular Careers in Sustainability networking event. Organisations represented during this week include Wavepower, Scottish Water, Bright Green Business and 2050 Climate Group.View more information and sign up for events using MyCareerHub.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Scientific Summer Internships in Scotland - 19 vacancies!

Scotgrad has just launched its annual summer "Life Sciences" internship programme.  Just in case any chemists are wondering, YES, it includes chemistry students for nearly all of the vacancies. You must be in years 1,2, or 3 of your degree. Closing date 29th February 2016.

Some really interesting vacancies - see here

Informal discussions about applying for these positions in Careers Service, KB, 1-2pm on 5th and 23rd February - see MCH