A person writing their CV on a laptop as they are applying for a new career.
Image: © terovesalainen/Stock.adobe.com

Don’t let a lack of experience put you off applying for a STEM career

21 Sep 2023

Show recruiters that you are passionate about the position they are hiring for by tailoring your CV and demonstrating an interest in learning new skills.

Click here to view the full Starting Your STEM Career series.

Starting your STEM career can be daunting. No matter how many articles you read on SiliconRepublic.com about people who break into their dream sector, it’s still not easy to go and replicate their success for yourself. But, why should you?

Everybody’s professional path is different so while it is excellent to think that some of our readers take inspiration from some of the pieces we have been publishing about early-career professionals over the past few weeks, nobody should seek to emulate anyone else. We all have our own skills, interests and attributes so it makes sense that no two career trajectories are the same.

That said, there are steps that every jobseeker and graduate should take if they want to land a good role – and these are very practical things that apply across the board. But don’t take it from us. We asked some people who are working in recruitment and talent acquisition for their insights into what works when it comes to taking on the jobs market as a newbie.

Tailor your application to stand out

First things first, Chen Murugiah, early-career recruitment manager at Citi, advises people to “highlight any relevant projects that they were involved in throughout their academic years, as well as capture internships in their CVs with details added as to how it is relevant”.

Ensuring your application is relevant to the role you want is key. “They can also tailor their CV to reflect how it connects to the role they have applied for, including any sites, LinkedIn profile, GitHub link etc,” says Murugiah. And do remember that companies like Citi deal with a massive volume of applicants so always include your graduation year and university grade.

Including interests or membership of university societies is beneficial too, as Murugiah points out that “this is another way of standing out from peers as it showcases transferrable skills we look for”.

This last point might help you distinguish your CV and application from another graduate who may have more sci-tech experience than you. If you can make yourself appear as interesting on paper as you are in person, that is a huge sell for employers. Even if you are not a sci-tech graduate, you can still prove to recruiters that you have the drive and interest necessary to do a great job if you’re taken on in an early-career role.

Show your personality and passion

Take it from Murugiah. “We accept individuals from all degree backgrounds but you have to provide evidence to showcase your interests in pursuing a career in technology.” There are numerous ways to do this, such as including participating in Hackathons and coding challenges and completing online tech courses.

The same principle applies to the pharma industry’s approach to recruiting early-career talent, according to Fiona Croke, associate director of global talent acquisition for MSD Ireland. Like Murugiah, Croke says you don’t necessarily need to be a sci-tech graduate to land a career in pharma.

“Regardless of your background, there are numerous transferable skills you can bring to the table – from problem-solving and project management to idea generation, research, communication and much more,” says Croke. “My advice to those who don’t come from a pharma background and are looking to get into the industry would be to just go for it!

“We sometimes create an imaginary barrier when it comes to pharma, thinking that only very specific academic profiles can fit in, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Croke also points out that people’s interests change over time – and with the professional development schemes that companies like MSD and Citi offer its early-career hires, this is par for the course. All you need is an interest in working in pharma or tech to begin with. Onboarding, upskilling and other in-house training provisions can go a long way in making up for a lack of experience in a beginner.

Croke advises those worried about their lack of experience to simply “identify the areas and topics that genuinely excite them and invest their efforts in pursuing those”. It is pretty solid advice from someone who has worked in HR and recruitment for more than a decade.

Research, research, research

The final tip that these talent acquisition and HR specialists had to impart is to take a bit of initiative and do your own research. If you really want to work for a certain company, look at their LinkedIn page and see how they engage with others in their industry and especially their employees.

Christine Mc Clune, talent attraction and engagement manager at Citi, points out that the fintech engages with early-stage talent in a number of ways – and this is something a lot of companies do, so keep an eye on their websites and social media to find out what they are looking for and when they are looking to hire early-career professionals.

“Through the Citi LinkedIn page, we share stories of employees across all areas and levels of the business. These employee testimonials are an opportunity for potential applicants to understand what life is like at Citi, learn about the culture in our Dublin office and be inspired by the careers that can be built here.”

‘Our early talent programmes are designed for movement’


At Citi, Mc Clune says, “We provide application and interview advice to students directly from our recruitment team through skills sessions which are held both virtually and in person at universities. We also speak with students about our opportunities at university career fairs and in guest lectures. As well as this, we also partner with Forage, a virtual internship platform that provides an insight into the day to day of an analyst role and what to expect.”

MSD performs similar outreach for graduates and early-career talent. Croke says the company gives graduates a chance to move around different departments and figure out what they want to do for themselves. “Our early talent programmes are designed for movement,” she says.

She returns again to her previous point about displaying an interest and a passion for something when you eventually discover what excites you. “All in all, I think it comes down to just always putting your hand up whenever you find a topic that interests you, excites you or intrigues you. We love to see passion, proactivity and commitment from early talent, as you never know where these interests might lead you. By putting yourself out there and seizing opportunities, the possibilities are endless.”

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading