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Top tips on applying for a STEM graduate job

Written by guest contributor Monika Mandal

Every young woman should have the opportunity to enjoy the career she wants, on her terms. Everyone who succeeds levels the playing field further for all women.

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My story

My family are originally from Bangladesh, however I was born and brought up in London, England. I am proud to be a British-Bengali Londoner. I have a small family, with one other sibling - an older brother. My parents never treated me any differently to my brother.

Their expectations of both of us were that we had to be better than everyone else in order to succeed. I think that this stemmed from their negative experiences in the 1960s, as immigrants who had encountered deep racial prejudices. Their view was that the only way to succeed and be ‘better’ was through education.

I went to a girls' school in South London. The advantage of going to a girls' school was that I studied STEM subjects as part of the curriculum. There didn't seem to be any gender bias towards to the arts or languages, and I soon realised that I had a natural aptitude towards to maths and the sciences.

Many of our family friends would encourage their children to study Medicine, but that wasn't something that really interested me. My brother, who was eight years older than me, was a positive influence. He was a pioneering computer geek, so he suggested that I consider studying Computer Science at university.

My degree and first job

I completed my Bsc. in Computer Science and Financial Management at the University of London, and even though there was an equal split of men and women on campus, my degree course only had three females out of a class of 120 students. I think this helped me get used to working in a male-dominated environment. I never felt inhibited by it, or out of place - I was simply judged by my academics.

After university I needed to get a job, and getting a place on a graduate training program was hugely competitive. However, I was determined and had a plan.

This was in 1995, before the internet, so I researched each of the investment banks by visiting the City Business Library. I poured over financial statements and marketing brochures to give me insights into what these companies actually did and whether or not they participated in any business philanthropy. The periodicals were not allowed to be removed from the library, so I had to scribble down notes in a notebook.

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I then drafted a covering letter and CV printed the finest quality paper to each of the investment banks that I had decided to apply to, ensuring that I addressed to the correct HR personnel by name and added details about the company that had resonated with me.

I managed to secure four graduate job offers, and decided to accept a place on the Merrill Lynch Graduate Training Programme.

My top tips for applying for graduate roles

1) Make sure that your application differentiates you from the competition. Employers receive 1000s of applications, so you need to find a way of standing out. For example, if you helped out in a family business, highlight what you did and what you learnt from the experience, or create a personalised website that can showcase your proudest accomplishments.

2) Research the industry that you would like to work in. When you think that you have a good idea of the industry, do some more in depth research into exactly which area that you want to work in.

3) Research the company that you are applying to. Use various sources, including social media (Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram), and find people that are or have worked there. Find someone that you can contact via email to provide an unpublished insight into the company.

4) Ensure that each application is tailored towards the company. Address the application to the individuals hiring by name. Also understand the company’s corporate ethos or main programmes, so that you can highlight your skills/experiences that dovetail into that.

5) Ensure that you clearly understand the type of role that you are applying for and what is expected of you, as it will be very obvious in your interview or application if you have not understood the role.

Be the best version of yourself

Something that has helped me throughout my life is my inner confidence and determination to succeed. I am grateful to both of my parents for instilling that in me.

When I mentor A-level students, I try to be practical. I share my story with them, and encourage them to be prepared and to be the best version of themselves.

My daughter is the youngest of my three children. Whilst the principles of resilience, preparation and striving to do your best are ones I try and instil in all my children, I still feel she will need to try harder that the boys, just like I did.

The industry is changing and there are now more women coming into STEM. Doors are opening more for women but they are still not wide open.

Every young woman should have the opportunity to enjoy the career she wants, on her terms. Everyone who succeeds levels the playing field further for all women.

About the author

Monika Mandal currently works as a Front Office Risk Technology Manager at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.


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