New Graduates: Present the Skills Employers Seek

As I was preparing for my last exam of my undergraduate career, I got an email from my campus mail center that I had a package arrive for me. I had received and opened the package to find an offer letter from my co-op employer, extending an offer for fulltime employment.

For my graduation, coworkers pitched in and got me a graduation gift, with a card signed by the contributors. On the card the president of our business sector signed it saying, “You’ve been so valuable, you can only be more valuable now that you’ve graduated!"

One year later I’ve since moved from that position in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to another position within the company in Bakersfield, California. During that time, many of my classmates and friends from other universities struggled to find employment. Some would ask me to review their resumes, help them find employment and help them prepare for interview questions. What I observed from this was that most of them lacked the ability to show a potential employer how they would add value to their organization. 

A large part of the hiring process is being able to market your skills as valuable assets to the potential employer. Marketing your skills will become easier once your skills are aligned with the vision of your potential employer. At that point, it will become easy to show the employer the ways in which you can be valuable.

Make yourself more valuable to an employer

You have to think like an employer when you're searching for a job. Consider what they need and what they will be seeking in you. Making yourself a more-attractive candidate requires three basic steps:

  1. Identify appropriate skills. Search for skills in the field of chemical engineering that is relevant to a potential employer. Luckily the AIChE website has a treasure trove of resources for you to find new skills. 
  2. Acquire the right skills. There's only so much information you can put on a resume so make sure it's the right information. Skills like safety awareness, chemical safety and OSHA skills are always in high demand.
  3. Use those skills. It's hard to get experience using relevant chemical engineering skills without a job, but some classes provide case studies of chemical incidents where you can use the skills you learned. Be sure to mention on your resume that your coursework allowed you to use these skills. 

Use internship and co-op experience to your advantage

For those students who were lucky enough to get an internship or co-op, this is a great time to study the organization, learn what skills are valuable to your employer, and which skills are needed.

In my very first co-op I was tasked with writing standard operating procedures for a desulferization system, light oil plant, and water treatment plant. At the time, the skill that was needed was someone with a technical knowledge of the systems to write procedures in a non-technical way for operators. 

I didn't like writing, and I was not good at it at the time. To become a skilled writer, I took online writing courses, practiced article writing, and acquired new skills that provided tremendous value for my employer. At the end of that rotation, I got over 50 procedures done and approved by the plant manager. 

Because of my ability to identify the skill deficits when I was on the job, acquire them, and then use them to provide value for my employer, I've never had to worry about unemployment during my undergraduate schooling or after.

I hope that you can use the insights from this article during your job searching process and land the job you want, right out of college.