Graduate Advice

People often comment on the excitement of working in the energy sector. It is a dynamic industry, where hard graft, team work and an understanding of social and environmental responsibilities is expected, and rewarded. 

It is also an industry that offers excellent training for men and women alike and, for many of the top jobs, good opportunities to spend time abroad.

Energy employment shows no signs of slowing down and if this is a career path you have chosen, then you have chosen wisely. Because people will always need energy in some form or another, jobs in the energy industry remain relatively stable.

In most areas, it is not difficult to get entry level jobs. It's simply a matter of learning when companies are hiring. However, this does not mean that you should not take your job application seriously. There can be a lot of competition for energy jobs and you should make sure you stand out from the crowd.

For those working within power generation and transmission, the coming decade is shaping up to be a very exciting time. While the government's commitment to reducing carbon emissions and so increase the proportion of energy generated from low carbon sources has meant renewable energy and nuclear power are both hot topics, readying the country's transmission system to cope with this change is also creating new challenges. As a result, demand for skilled engineers able to innovate in these areas is growing.

The energy industry is so wide and varied and so critical to our everyday lives that it offers an interesting career choice to anyone whether your interest is in the arts or the science, a job in the energy industry can cater for everyone.

The highlights of a career in energy

• Working in an expanding sector.
• The diverse range of roles available.
• Opportunities for international travel.

Energy, environmental and sustainability careers are open to graduates in a wide range of agencies and industries, so there is not a typical entry route into the environmental sector. Many environmental organisations are small and only have a few vacancies that arise occasionally, and therefore only a few are advertised on our website. Competition for jobs can also be fierce due to the number of people studying environmental subjects so it is therefore essential that you network as much as possible and let your contacts know if you are available for work.

There are many suitable opportunities for graduates, but not all of them include 'graduate' in the job title. Some organisations regularly hire graduates into training schemes. However, due to the recession, a third of top employers cut their graduate recruitment budget and vacancies by 7% as compared with graduate recruitment in 2007. Not all graduates go straight into employment around 16% of graduates go on to further study.
Career in energy industry generally requires graduates to be willing to travel and maybe even to live abroad. .

Getting a graduate job in energy industry

It's important to understand how your role fits into the bigger picture, be able to work in a team and, in many cases, communicate with clients. Internships are increasingly common and are a good way to explore different types of work. Many employers run graduate programmes lasting several years that allow engineers to try out different areas. Later, they may choose to become specialists in a particular area, follow a management route or work in project engineering (a project management role).

The energy industry seeks graduates in:

• Aerospace/aeronautical
• Automotive
• Chemical
• Civil/structural
• Control
• Electrical
• Electronics
• Environmental
• Instruments
• Manufacturing
• Materials
• Mathematics
• Mechanical
• Physics
• Power systems
• Software
• Telecoms
The range of starting salaries for graduates is broad. Although the number of graduate vacancies is falling, starting salaries in some industries are set to increase by an impressive 6% in 2010. The average graduate salary is around £18,000 / €20,000 / $22,00, but be aware that many graduates are paid a lot less.

Graduate entrants should expect to develop their skills and industry knowledge quickly. As well as individual employees' skills and experience, levels of pay are determined by many factors, including:

• the nature of the work;
• competition and popularity of certain jobs;
• economic change and business success;
• requirement for professional qualifications;
• geographical region;
• sector and industry.

As well as needing the right subjects and qualifications to begin a career in the energy industry, you will also need to develop many other skills that will be needed every day in the workplace. Consider the list of skills and attributes below and decide how you can improve in these areas.

In order to start a successful hunt for your "dream" job you need to consider the following:

What jobs suit me?

Ask yourself what is really important to you and what you are willing to do. Everyone has unique motivations and ambitions and yours may be different from those of people you know. Writing your ideas down or talking them through may bring out more possibilities. Career service at your university have a wealth of resources to support career research and planning. Once you have an idea of the type of work you would like to do and the industry you would like to work in, it is important to research the jobs available in that industry.

What do different jobs entail?

Learning what people actually do on a day-to-day basis is a crucial step in your job search. Understanding jobs is the best way to ensure you make the right decision for you. It is also essential for writing strong applications to persuade a company or organisation that you are a good fit for the job.

How do I use my degree?

You may want to apply your subject-related knowledge and skills directly to the world of work. Ask your university careers service for the results of surveys that provide some insight into what people

What location suits me?

Your dream job is unlikely to be on your doorstep, so you may need to move to a new area. Metropolitan areas have a greater concentration of businesses, offering more opportunities. However, there are certain types of work or specialism that are clustered in specific places. For example, there are jobs in ports and airports that do not exist elsewhere. Always take into account how you will get to work and the time it will take. If you are considering relocating, remember to research the local area; this can easily be done by reading the local newspaper and researching online.

What type of employer suits me?

Finding an organisation that suits you is as important as choosing the right occupation. There are pros and cons with any employer.

Large employers

These are often household names and traditionally key graduate recruiters. They tend to offer structured career development and support for employees studying for professional qualifications. A whole cohort of graduates may be recruited together, with planned social events. Graduate entrants may earn high salaries and gain early responsibility. There may also be scope to experience different business functions. On the other hand, the hours may be long and the work highly pressured. Some new entrants may also find their career development options restricted by the organisation's long-term plans.

Small and medium-sized enterprises

SMEs may provide the chance to enjoy a wider involvement in issues affecting the whole organisation from the start. They may also offer variety of workload and flexible conditions. In smaller organisations, you may get to know all your colleagues rather than just those in your own department. The down side is there may be less frequent opportunities for advancement without changing employers, and starting salaries may be slightly lower.


Setting up a business or self-employment is likely to suit self-motivated and well-organised graduates who value autonomy. The freedom to choose assignments and make independent decisions is balanced by the need to take responsibility for all tasks, including mundane or difficult ones. Find out more at self-employment.

Finding employers

Once you have decided on the job role, sector and type of employer that are most suited to you, make a list of organisations that interest you. Check out the following to help you get started:

• local employers known to recruit graduates
• your university careers services - speak to staff or go online
• professional institution resources - they may publish a list of members
• companies and industry vacancies - check companies' careers and job web pages and online job sites
• trade associations' lists of member companies.

There are several directories of graduate employers, available from your university careers service and online, that contain vacancies for the year ahead and background information on featured employers.

If you already have particular employers in mind, visit their websites, which are likely to include all the details you need and an online application facility. Many organisations recruit through their sites.

Vacancy sources

You can search for vacancies in a variety of sources. The internet is now the quickest and most cost effective way for employers to advertise their vacancies. The majority of companies have a jobs or careers page on their website, allowing you to apply for vacancies online, and they may also use online job sites. Research job sites specific to either graduate recruitment or the industry you are interested in - you can often apply to websites to receive notification of vacancies.

• University careers services often post lists of vacancies, both local and regional.
• Annual campus events, such as careers and graduate fairs and talks by industry speakers are an opportunity to investigate vacancies.
• Specialist industry magazines, available weekly, fortnightly and monthly, have vacancy sections.
• National graduate recruitment fairs take place every autumn around the UK and are open to graduates of any institution.
• Some national and local papers specialise in particular types of jobs on particular days. Most newspapers list jobs in a searchable database on their websites that you can check regularly.

Large employers often have an annual graduate recruitment scheme, planned far in advance, to meet operational and business development needs. This type of recruitment is aimed at both finalists and recent graduates. These schemes are popular and attract lots of applicants every year. When applying for graduate schemes be sure to know the application deadlines as intake is usually within the autumn term, between September and January.

It is important to know that employers do also recruit throughout the year, as and when vacancies occur, and often advertise these vacancies on their website. They evaluate the application form or CV according to the criteria they have set for the role. Applicants must address all the employer's needs, providing evidence to indicate how they match these criteria. For further information about applications go to CV, covering letters and application form.

It is sometimes possible to obtain a non-advertised job by approaching the employer directly with a carefully targeted CV and covering letter. Use speculative job applications to find out about recruitment practices for jobs that interest you. For further information, go to Networking.

Some employers use recruitment agencies to fill vacancies at all levels, from temporary staff to executives with greater responsibilities. This means you should consider registering with a recruitment agency to get into the organisation you want.

Recruitment agencies

Many agencies specialise in particular industries or sectors. Using a specialist energy agency will benefit you as they have industry energy insight and a good grasp of current issues and industry requirements. They will be able to explain what is happening in the industry and also advise on interview techniques. On the other side, consultants manage the vacancies they are working on and they may not tell you about a job if they have already found a number of suitable candidates.

You can use the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), Agency Central and Jobfit to search for agencies by specialism and location. Recruitment agencies also advertise online recruitment and their websites give a good indication of the roles they recruit for.
Never register with more than four agencies, as many recruitment agencies have the same clients and will be working to fill the same positions. It is good to find agencies who work with different companies, potentially giving you exposure to lots of different jobs, but you may not have access to this information before you register. Check that the agency is a member of the REC. Even if you find a good agency, it is still important for you to keep track of all of your applications.

Agencies normally ask you to submit your CV before they sign you up. Phone first to check whether they deal with your work sector. Agency contact is likely to be positive if you have particular in-demand skills that make you a good candidate. If you are a generalist or have limited experience, they may not be interested in registering you at all.

When registering, it is important to make a good impression, so prepare as if you were being interviewed for a job to ensure that the recruitment consultant takes you seriously. For best results, build a relationship with your consultant and keep in touch to remind them about your skills, abilities and goals, so they represent you accurately.

If you are not happy with the agency representing you and their service does not improve after you discuss it with them, you can ask them to remove you from their books and not to act for you. Remember that agencies' main clients are the employers, not the candidates, so do not expect them to do all the research and work on your behalf.

Listed below are top tips to help you tackle your job hunt in a systematic and business-like manner:

• Firstly and most importantly you need to decide what profession you want to be in.
• Decide upon your profession and target your applications / CV accordingly.
• The closer your targeted job relates to your course or work experience the higher your salary expectation can be. For example, high-tech electronics companies will be looking for graduates with degrees in electronics or computing.
• Rewrite your CV and application forms to have a business emphasis. Steer away from the common student writing style which includes too much emphasis on hobbies, course details, references, holiday travel and grades of every examination ever taken such as swimming, gymnastics and dance.
• Focus on your language and choose words in your CV / application form that have a business-like tone. Words like solved, performed, redirected, developed, implemented, sold and supervised create a positive business-like impression and say so much more about you than woolly words like involved, assisted, hardworking, helpful and ambitious.
• Decide what is special about you and what can you offering your future employer. Think in terms of your unique business skills: What can you do that would add value to your chosen company? What are you going to bring to an organisation? What personal skills do you have to offer? Yes, the focus is on how 'You' can make a positive difference to your chosen organisation.
• A lot of graduate applications are very dull, boring and lack enthusiasm for the job on offer. Create a bit of intrigue and appeal by committing your enthusiasm and talents to paper.
• Employers like qualifications but they are also looking to recruit the other qualification, which is your personality. The bit, which determines how you come across, and how much potential you have. It also gives you the edge over other candidates with similar qualifications as yourself, so don't downplay its importance.
• Invest time and effort into researching your chosen profession and putting your application together. Many graduates see a position they like the look of and just throw anything down on paper in the vain hope that it will get them the job. If you do not put the effort in, your application does not stand a chance.

Graduate employers recruit motivated applicants who have relevant skills and the capacity to 'fit in'. Many also require a good degree.

Some jobs require specific technical expertise but others are open to graduates of any discipline, as employers often focus on potential.

Transferable skills

These are competencies that can be carried over from one activity to another. They are key attributes within graduate recruitment. Think about your personal qualities and the role you're applying for - which of these skills are most relevant?

You should get involved in a wide range of activities and work experience while you are at university to develop these skills so you can promote yourself to employers.

Every vacancy requires a unique set of competencies but some transferrable skills are commonly requested, these are listed below:

• self-awareness: knowing your strengths and skills and having the confidence to put these across;
• initiative: anticipating challenges and opportunities, setting and achieving goals and acting independently;
• willingness to learn: being inquisitive, enthusiastic and open to new ideas;
• action planning: prioritising, making decisions, assessing progress and making changes if necessary;
• interpersonal skills: relating well to others and establishing good working relationships;
• communication: listening to other people and clearly getting your point across orally, in writing and via electronic means, in a manner appropriate to the audience;
• teamwork: being constructive, performing your role, listening to colleagues and encouraging them;
• leadership: motivating others and inspiring them to take your lead;
• goal setting motivation and commitment. Are you ambitious and driven or the type to give up easily
• sticking to policy and procedure: rules can be really important to the smooth running of a business, especially in larger companies. Are you able to stick to them? Can you challenge it when appropriate?
• diplomacy: handling work-based situations where you disagree with a colleagues
• decisiveness and judgment: ability to make difficult decisions need to be taken in order for progress to be made. Do you have the confidence and skill to do so?
• autonomy: ability to be resourceful and can work without the need for detailed instructions.
• organisational and planning skills: high productivity. Ability to organise your workload so that tasks are done well and on time
• creativity: ability to contribute to a progressive vision.
• risk taking Risk taking is important in business as the rewards can be high. Employers want confident individuals who can calculate risk and reward and proceed accordingly.
• stress: performing well under stressful situations
• initiative: ability to use initiative and come up with ideas
• customer service: being friendly, caring and diplomatic with clients and customers;
• networking: building effective relationships with business partners;
• foreign language: specific language skills;
• problem solving: thinking things through in a logical way in order to determine key issues, often also including creative thinking;
• flexibility: ability to handle change and adapt to new situations;
• commitment/motivation: energy and enthusiasm to achieve goals;
• numeracy: competence and understanding of numerical data, statistics and graphs;
• commercial awareness: understanding business and how it affects the organisation and sector;
• IT/computer literacy: office skills, ability to touch type and use common software packages.

You can develop these skills during your work experience, your studies and your extracurricular activities. For example, you could improve your customer-service skills by working on the customer service desk in a supermarket or demonstrate your teamwork skills in a group project at university.

Work experience/volunteering

Employers greatly value work experience because:

• it clearly demonstrates skills and motivation;
• skills are easily transferable;
• it delivers experience of the workplace.

Voluntary experience is usually as highly valued as paid work. Start out by getting any general work experience to put on your CV - your university careers service should be able to help. Then you could get experience that is more relevant to your chosen career, perhaps even an internship at the end of your penultimate year (but apply early).

In order to promote your skills effectively you should outline:

• when you have demonstrated the skills required (using specific examples);
• how you have performed them to a high level;
• a positive outcome.

For example, you could prove your problem-solving skills by outlining a specific problem at work when you weighed up possible solutions, sought advice, trialed different resolutions and effectively communicated your decision, resulting in a solution.

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