Five Top Tips for Choosing the Right Role: Career Opportunities for Graduate Mining Engineers

Written by Loren Ager, MEC Mining – Principal of Learning & Development

Graduating from university is an exciting but nerve-wracking time. Mining industry graduate programs are highly competitive, offer diverse career development opportunities and are often highly paid.  Being organised early and planning for the right job choice can help with the transition from university student to graduate mining engineer. 

Here are five top tips for starting your career in the mining industry and choosing the right job:

Research, research, research

Research as many graduate programs as possible and determine what is important for you.  Is it a commodity, location, money, development opportunities or a combination of these and more?  Many mining companies have standardised graduate programs, generally, between 18 to 24 months, which offer rotational work in different commodities or regions.  For larger companies, the term of the graduate program is fixed-term only allowing you to apply for internal roles in the last six months of the program. 

Some smaller more specialised companies can offer fast-tracking opportunities based on your prior experience or rate of development.  Rosters may include fly-in-fly-out or regional residential placements, which are often determined by the location of the mine.  Flights may or may not be included in your contract. 

While you are on roster accommodation is generally in mine camps, however, if it is a residential role then shared-living arrangements are often common for graduates.  It is important to understand where you will be based, what your accommodation options are and if you are required to pay for alternative accommodation on your days off. 

Important questions to consider:

  • How long is the graduate program?
  • Can I fast track the graduate program?
  • When can I apply for internal roles after the graduate program?
  • Where will I be based?
  • Is the role residential or FIFO?
  • Is my accommodation included in my contract or will I need to pay for alternative accommodation on my days off?
  • Are flights included in my contract or will this be an additional cost?

Company values and workplace culture

Most companies display their corporate values online or in promotional material.  These values are often stretch-goals for the company, however, implementation in the workplace sometimes falls short, especially during challenging times.  It is important to make sure your personal values align both with the company values and the workplace culture. 

Networking, making contacts in the industry and reaching to graduates who work on-site will help you get a better idea if companies demonstrate their values in the workplace. 

Companies also use social media to promote positive workplace culture by celebrating team and individual successes.  Ensure that you have a social media presence and following the companies you are interested in working for.  That way you can develop a better understanding of their company values and how they demonstrate them.

Important questions to consider:

  • Do your personal values align with the company values?
  • Do you know anyone in the company and do they demonstrate the company values?
  • Have you heard positive comments made about the workplace culture?
  • Does the company celebrate individual and team successes?
  • Is the workplace inclusive and diverse?
  • Does the company hold any social or team-building events?

Training and development opportunities

Your career path will progress faster if you are given training and development opportunities.  While researching companies and discussing potential roles with company representatives, ask about career progression plans and training opportunities within their graduate programs.   On-site learning will often be the main method used to develop graduates, but this should also be supplemented with technical and soft skill training to help you develop a professional portfolio of skills. 

Additional external training should also be considered if you are thinking about specialising in focused areas of engineering such as drill and blast or dragline engineering.  Most companies offer graduate modules which allow graduates to get together, discuss topical issues/challenges and learn from each other. 

Companies should also offer opportunities to interact and learn from engineers and senior engineers.  These opportunities will help you understand the challenges experienced at different levels throughout the company. 

Important questions to consider:

  • Does the graduate program offer technical development other than learning on the job?
  • Are soft skills a focus for the graduate program?
  • Are there opportunities to interact with and learn from other graduates?
  • Are there opportunities to interact with and learn from engineers and senior engineers?
  • Are networking opportunities offered in the graduate program?
  • Are graduates provided with a career progression or development plan?

Understand the application process and prepare for interviews

The application and interview process is your chance to demonstrate your abilities and justify why you should be considered for a graduate role.  Preparing for the application and interview process will help you reduce nerves, feel confident and perform better on the day.  The application process can sometimes involve an initial application online, which requires a current resume and cover letter, and aptitude, personality or skills test. 

Ensure your resume is up to date and relevant for the applicable role, uses professional language, is formatted so that it is in chronological order and easy to read.  Preparing for aptitude, personality and skills testing can be done online through multiple providers.  Ask the company representative which provider they use so that you can complete practice questions before taking the tests. 

Also, understand how long the testing will take and make sure you are completing them in an environment without distractions or interruptions.  If you are successful with your application, you will progress through to the interview stage.  Interviews may be given via the phone, video conference or face-to-face.  Go online and research interview questions and prepare answers.  It is also good to know who will be interviewing you so that you can prepare the right kind of answers. 

Human relations representatives will tend to ask performance and communication-related questions, whereas Technical Services representatives will ask more technical, mining-related questions.  All interviews are different, but you should generally have answers relating to working in teams, communication methods, leadership examples, challenging situations and safety. 

Important questions to consider:

  • Are you required to take an aptitude, personality or skills test?
  • How long does the application process take?
  • Are your resume and cover letter up to date?
  • Do you know who will be interviewing you?
  • Have you researched interview questions and prepared answers?

Total remuneration package

After you have researched companies, completed the application process and performed well in the interview process you may be lucky enough to receive one or more offers.  Money is a crucial factor to consider when choosing the right role, not only as a graduate also throughout your career. 

Understanding the elements that make up your total remuneration package (TRP) is important.  TRP is made up of your base salary plus agency superannuation contribution and any other benefits and supplementary payments including, but not limited to, vehicles, mobile phones, flights, accommodation, bonuses and site allowance. 

In Australia, the minimum superannuation a company must contribute is 9.5% of an employee’s ordinary time earnings and must be paid at least four times a year.  When a company makes you an offer, ensure you understand what is included in the package and calculate what your ‘take-home’ amount is.  What starts out as a considerable amount can be reduced quickly if the company takes out flights and accommodation and remember that site allowance will be removed for the duration of rotation in head office.

Important questions to consider:

  • What is the base salary?
  • Do you get site allowance?
  • Is there an annual bonus and how do you qualify for that bonus?
  • Are there any exclusions from the package such as accommodation or flights?
  • How often are you paid?
  • How much superannuation is contributed to by the company?
  • Does the role come with transportation to and from the mine or do you need to provide a car?