Careers Advice

What does the Space Industry want from Graduates?

5 things the space industry wants from graduates: A summary of a workshop organised by the Space Universities Network.

At the UK Space Conference on May 30th 2017 in Manchester, attended the launch of the Space Universities Network, SUN. SUN is a network of over 40 space scientists, engineers and academics from 23 institutions. They aim to help create a skilled workforce of graduates who can meet the challenges of future space exploration as well as develop and promote effective practice​ and innovation in the delivery of university ­level space science and engineering curricula.  

The workshop brought together academics, industry and students together to discuss the skills needed to prepare graduates for a  career in the space industry. It featured talks from the following renowned industry professionals who all offered a behind the scenes perspective on what companies are currently looking for:

Lucy Berthoud, Chair of SUN

Andrew Stroomer, Head of Earth Observation, Navigation and Science, Airbus Defence and Space

Kathie Bowden, UK National Space Skills and Career Development Manager, UK Space Agency

Emma Jones, Chief Technology Officer, Thales Alenia Space UK

Rosalind Azouzi, Head of Skills and Careers, Royal Aeronautical Society

Shefali Sharma, Business Development, Oxford Space Systems

For those of you who could not attend we have summed up the workshop into 5 key points that answer the question, “What does the Space Industry want from Graduates?”

1. Cultural Empathy

A key theme of the session was that the ability to work in a multinational environment is absolutely essential. All speakers stressed that the European Space Industry is successful due to its cooperative nature. Being sensitive to the different challenges faced in communicating with people from different backgrounds and being able to work effectively as an international team is a huge part of being able to thrive in the space industry.

Showing evidence that you have worked in a multinational team, spent time living abroad, speaking another language and willingness to relocate to different countries are all things that will help you be successful.

2. Business and Commercial Awareness

Another big point raised in the session was the ability for graduates to have an understanding of the industry. This means being aware of why we do things - it’s no good engineering something if we can’t sell it at the end of it! You need to be able to have the customer in mind to be able to design the right product.

3. Innovation and Creativity

Thinking out of the box was highlighted as a quality essential for the space industry. Faced with challenging missions, you need to be ready to show creativity and proactively seek new solutions to problems. Companies are increasingly approaching tasks with innovation in mind and this is what they will be looking for in future graduates.

So be ready to get comfortable with uncertainty and remember to show you’re not scared of change and facing new challenges and problems. The willingness to propose ideas that can improve processes or introduce a new way of working is also a highly valued asset, especially in start-up companies, which are usually even quicker at putting new ideas into practice.

4. Practical Experience

It goes without saying that relevant work experience will get you in the door, but companies aren’t just looking for the technical ability to do stuff. Having any kind of experience working, whether in a shop or volunteering for a charity shows that you’ll have learnt some key life lessons already making you a better colleague from the get-go.

Showing that you’ve taken responsibility before and that you’ve experienced a working environment will not be glossed over by companies, so make sure you include all your work experience in your CV. And it doesn’t have to be formal work experience either! If you’ve spent a couple of weeks over the summer holiday teaching yourself graphic design, playing guitar, coding or any other skill, then make sure you mention it.

A key point to take was to not only count your successes as useful experience. According to Shefali Sharma, companies also want to hear about the times you’ve tried something and it hasn’t quite worked out the way you were hoping it to. They want to see you can learn from your mistakes. So if you’ve started your own company and failed, but you dusted yourself off, showed resilience and learned important lessons from it, this definitely counts as practical experience, too.

5. Well-roundedness

Last but not least, all professionals in the workshop agreed that they are looking for well-rounded graduates. What this means is companies appreciate academically gifted graduates, but they are looking beyond that and searching for all those other qualities that make you the right fit for their company. They are searching for a team working mindset, confidence, ambition, communication skills, flexibility, organisational skills, time management and so on. Language skills were also mentioned as valuable in the space industry where international collaboration is daily. So make sure you work on also developing skills outside academia and in your next interview don’t forget to mention a few examples that underline them.

To stay up to date with what industry needs from you, visit SUN’s website. They provide a bank of public outreach materials for schools, a database of speakers and topic experts and a recruitment portal for space courses. SUN will also provide a presence at key opportunities and events to recruit young people to the discipline and liaise with student space societies.

Feeling inspired? A great way to build your skills and get the chance to talk to many companies in the space industry is to get involved with We are always looking for student volunteers to help write content and attend events like these! Apply Here.

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