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Considerations for Young Professionals Entering a Career in STEM
As a young professional in the STEM field, you’re in luck: you’re in high demand. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in STEM occupations grew by 10.5 percent, or 817,260 jobs, between May 2009 and May 2015, compared with 5.2 percent net growth in non-STEM occupations. In addition to job security, 93 percent of STEM occupations offer wages above the national average.
But while your entry into the professional world of STEM may seem bright, there are a few key ways to properly market yourself to get the job you want. Here are a few best practices:
• It’s All about Attitude: Your technical skills will get you in the door, but it’s the softer skills, such as effective verbal and written communication, teamwork and a positive “can do” attitude that will differentiate you from others who seek leadership roles.
• Get Out of Your Comfort Zone: Be open to new opportunities, even those you didn’t initially envision for yourself as you entered the job market. By challenging yourself with different experiences, you’ll learn something new every step of the way. Remember growth happens outside of your comfort zone.
• Shop Around: Consider working for a firm that can place you in temporary contract positions. This will give you the opportunity to work on various projects, and with different companies. As a young professional, it’s a great way to “try before you buy,” all while building skills and valuable relationships with each new role.
• But Invest in Each Opportunity: Don’t be a job hopper. Candidates who make many moves in a short amount of time can be perceived to have a low level of commitment. Make sure you invest enough time in each position to prove to the company (and yourself) you can deliver return on investment (ROI). Throughout your professional career you’ll have many jobs, perhaps even spanning multiple disciplines, but be sure you can articulate to each prospective employer the rationale for your job changes.
• Foster New Skills: Have a passion for continuous learning. Find ways to keep your skills sharp by taking additional courses, volunteering for projects and taking on stretch assignments. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand when your company needs someone to take the lead.
As a young professional beginning your employment in the STEM industry, you have many exciting opportunities ahead of you. With the right attitude, the openness to try new things and the willingness to learn, you’ll guarantee yourself a successful lifelong career.
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