Feeling dissatisfied in your sustainability career? Or wanting to broaden your opportunities and experience? Developing these 7 habits will give your career an ongoing boost and move you towards the top of your profession! 

Habit #1: Network well 

Boost Your Sustainability Career
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

You probably know that networking is important. But if you aren’t doing it, it’s probably because you find the process of interacting with others difficult, awkward, and time-consuming. 

How can you overcome this? Give yourself a simple task. Pick a time interval – a day, a week, a month, but no more than a month, and at least once each interval aim to have an extended conversation with someone you haven’t met before, or don’t know well. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at first. But keep doing it, till it becomes a habit. 

And if you are struggling to find someone to talk to, you can use online groups as a starting point. In LinkedIn alone, there are hundreds of Sustainability Groups, such as the Sustainability Career Group, Sustainability Leaders Group, Wind Power Career Group,  Solar Power Career Group, Ocean Power Network, Climate Policy Group, and many more. Search these groups, join, strike up conversations.

Interestingly researchers such as that reported on by David Burkus have found that it’s those people who may not know you well, or are in your second and third degree networks through which career opportunities can come. For example I once ended up with a series of projects because of a referral from someone I had interviewed for a job 5 years earlier! (Yes, I had offered him the job, sadly he had declined, but then I later on employed someone who knew him, which perhaps was why he remembered me 5 years later). Thank you Brad! 

Habit #2: Have an opinion

When you meet someone, ideally you want to leave an impression, a good impression. A great way of doing this by having well reasoned and strongly held opinions. Not just an opinion (anyone else sick of unsubstantiated claims of election fraud). A well reasoned opinion, delivered with conviction, whilst also being open to other ideas. On something to do with sustainability. 

Of course, you don’t know everything. But, to have an opinion means you have thought of, and been able to articulate concepts that perhaps others haven’t yet heard of or considered. Consider the path less taken and the solutions less studied, but which point to a better way. By doing this you’ll stand out, and be memorable. 

Habit #3: Make people meet

People shaking hands in a meeting
Image by Werner Heiber from Pixabay

In the sustainability industry, generosity and helpfulness can really give you a boost. Being known as the person who introduced person A to person B and person C to D, and so on will make you one of those “connectors” who people consult when looking for a solution. 

As you progress up the career ladder, remember that there are people below you who are striving for success. Some may see these novices as competitors. But if you were to look at it from a different perspective, you will see opportunities in helping them grow. 

You see, in sustainability, we all have the same mission — to help the planet. Perhaps the help you give to someone will lead to that person one day unlocking some amazingly innovative strategies that reduce waste and conserve the Earth’s resources. 

So introducing someone new in their career to someone who may be able to help, or helping widen the sphere of influence of an introverted expert you know, is good for sustainability, and over time can be good for you.

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Habit #4: Contribute to your industry 

Knuckles clenched together
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

When you’re just starting your sustainability career, you may not think that you can make a significant contribution. You’re still learning. However, your contribution to the industry does not only involve you sharing knowledge and skills. It also includes your participation in events and support of your leaders, representatives, and colleagues. Just by attending a meeting or by participating in a conference, you’re already making an impact because it demonstrates your commitment to the industry.

Don’t hesitate to ask even those “dumb” and “ridiculous” questions that most experts are afraid to raise. Perhaps these questions aren’t so dumb overall. 

And, as you climb that career ladder, you will realize that you can do more than just participate. You can join committees, and get to meet and know others beyond your immediate circle. Sharing your knowledge in articles and publications is another great way to contribute – and build your profile.  

As you continue to learn and improve, you will see that there are a vast number of questions left unanswered. This can open up your purpose in the industry — to address hard problems and create solutions. 

Habit #5: Demonstrate leadership 

Man smiling because of sustainability career growth
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

To demonstrate leadership means to embody the characteristics of an effective leader. Even if you’re not in a management role, assuming a sense of responsibility will contribute to the success of your team 

Courage, for example, is one of the most vital traits a leader should possess. 

If you need opportunities to grow, courage allows you to move out of your comfort zone and seek out opportunities to improve. Courage allows you to face your problems head-on without looking for a scapegoat. It drives you to create solutions and innovate, overcoming obstacles.

And there are so many obstacles and challenges in sustainability! Courage and persistence are needed to keep on finding solutions that reduce environmental harm.  

Another quality of effective leaders is that they are influential. This is the ability to convince people to feel, act, or think in a specific way. As a sustainability professional, you are engaged in the process of change, in influencing individuals, corporations and governments to act in ways that reduce environmental harm. Seeing how difficult this can be, develop the ability to build rapport and trust, and point out a path of action – in other words be inspirational.

Habit #6: Study and improve 

Woman writing on a notebook in front of a laptop
Image by Daniela Carvalho Dani from Pixabay

There may come a time in your professional life when you think that there’s nothing much left to learn, and that it’s not worth the effort. Avoid this thinking!  One of the best pieces of advice I received early in my career was “you are only as good as your latest project”. 

The process of studying and improving is not limited to reading books or listening to lectures. It includes research and innovation. And setting yourself some stretch goals – goals that are not that easy to achieve, but also not impossible. This habit of continuously seeking to improve is one of the most useful keys to boosting your career. Not only does this allow you personally to grow but will also contribute to great sustainability outcomes.

Habit #7: Be great at what you do 

Sustainability Professional gesturing excitement
Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Every sustainability professional is playing a crucial role in society. In light of many sustainability challenges, you may at times despair and think that your contribution is just a drop in the bucket. But many drops fill the bucket, many buckets fill a pond, and many ponds make up an ocean. And there are many many people now working in sustainability. So do genuinely good work. Work that leads to real sustainability outcomes, not just imaginary ones, or outcomes that appear to be good but have no substance (aka greenwash). Make your drops good drops, ones that can’t evaporate! Then work to make those drops grow into buckets as your career grows and you inspire others, which then grow to ponds, and fill the ocean! 

And when you do good work, very good work, excellent work, you will be sought out, and opportunities will come. 

There you have it! Don’t hesitate to apply these seven effective habits to boost your sustainability career. Not only will these help you contribute to a more sustainable world, they will help you grow as a fulfilled and satisfied individual.

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2 thoughts on “7 Habits to Boost Your Sustainability Career”

  1. Some great tips in there … hopefully I am ticking them all off. It’s a never-ending journey but thankfully when it oozes from your heart and soul, it’s hardly work!

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