A year in industry is a great way to gain experience that can give you a competitive edge amongst other graduates in your field. We caught up with Lucy to find out more about her career journey since graduating from The University of Manchester.

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, I’m Lucy and my degree is MEng Chemical Engineering with Industrial Experience. I graduated in June 2019 and began my first role in September 2019. I am currently working as a Global Process Development Manager (Research and Development - R&D) for Unilever. I am responsible for the scale up and implementation of new technologies and developing product insights to improve product performance and sustainability.

What did you do after university?

My graduate journey began after a summer of having fun doing some travelling and moving from Manchester to Southampton. I started with ExxonMobil at the Fawley Refinery as an Operations & Project Process Engineer. This was a graduate scheme advertised extensively on graduate sites and LinkedIn. This role was a very “classic” step for Chemical Engineering graduates and heavily related to the skills I learned at university. Having year in industry experience was invaluable for standing out in a crowded field during interviews. Being able to demonstrate hands on experience and responsibilities that helped me to communicate competencies and skills much more strongly. To be competitive, any experience outside of university is exceptionally useful. I did a lot of volunteering with the Manchester Leadership Programme and worked in a shoe shop part time which helped me secure my industrial placement.

Are you still in the same sector today? If not, why did you change roles?

I have moved on since my graduate scheme and changed sectors after realising that this industry wasn’t for me. A connection from my LinkedIn network advertised a role at Unilever as a Process Development Engineer. Initially I wasn't sure it would be my thing, however, the job description seemed to match my skills and what I was missing in my current role, therefore I decided to take the leap and apply. Changing roles for me was driven by wanting to do more problem solving, feel more innovation focus and work in a company more aligned with my passion to drive sustainability through innovation. I saw this advert when I was realising that the role and company I was working in were not for me. The application was a CV and an interview with the hiring managers.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you finished university/started your first graduate job?

My advice to my younger self: your job title and company are not the most important factors about you. How you achieve in the face of adversity, and how you think and apply your knowledge is what will make you stand out in an interview. Being able to think outside the box and bring a new take to problems is much more valuable than being the best technical engineer. When I was hired as a Process Development Engineer, I knew nothing about the industry or R&D, yet what has helped me to be successful is adaptability, innovative thinking and joining ideas that others wouldn’t see. Understanding what YOU bring to the table is important, particularly so you don’t undervalue your own skills.