Whether you’re a career changer, recent graduate, or even a high school student, it’s never too early to start thinking about your future career in the sustainability sector. Jobs in sustainability are growing as traditional markets begin to embrace and incorporate sustainability as a fundamental part of their day-to-day operations. ‘Green’ is becoming mainstream as the ethos of environmental and social sustainability transcends all business segments and industries and has even found a place into the corporate world.
As a result, there are a huge variety of opportunities available to job seekers and new graduates looking to make a difference in their profession, and these will continue to grow. Whether or not you’re ready to start applying for jobs, once you’ve decided you want to follow this path you should check out these top tips for starting your career in the sustainability sector.
Narrow down your career path
Sustainability is a huge field that encompasses many different sectors, industries, and roles, and addresses issues as diverse as energy, water, waste, ecology, food production, climate change, and many more. Consider if you would like to work for a private company, a government department, or a non-profit organisation. Think about what types of issues you care about and what industries you are interested in. Sustainability can be incorporated into a huge variety of industries, including engineering, education, transportation, manufacturing and production, agriculture, fashion, technology, and more.
It’s ok not to have a definite answer: when we’re younger, we often don’t know what we want to do, and as we get older, our interests change and develop, so don’t feel like you’re locked into one path. However, understanding where your interests lie will help you narrow down your focus and start to pinpoint which area you might want to work in.
Identify your dream job and requirements
One step beyond simply narrowing down your career path is to identify your dream position. What are some companies that you admire or are interested in? What is their approach to sustainability and what are some of their values? What kinds of roles do they offer?
Even if you’re not yet ready to start applying for jobs, do a preliminary search on job boards like Seek, Glassdoor, or Indeed. If you see any jobs that you think sound really interesting, save the job description and in particular, the position requirements, so that you can refer back to them later. This is a great way of identifying what kind of skills or experience you might need to land your ideal job.
Get experience or learn practical skills
Having some practical experience can give you the edge on your competition when you start applying for jobs. Internships or volunteer work are a great way to further define what areas or topics you are interested in pursuing a career in. They can also give you great practical experience and exposure to the daily operations of your chosen career path, as well as kicking off your networking skills. Having experience like this also shows future employers that you’re dedicated to working in this field.
Similarly, you can also learn practical skills through short courses or training programs. If you’ve reviewed existing job opportunities that you’re interested in, this will really help you identify the educational requirements that you might need. Make sure you consider the necessity of these professional certifications before signing up, particularly if you are not yet ready to apply for jobs or you need to renew your accreditation after a particular time period.
Some day in the future we’ll be able to meet each other in person again, but until then, there’s a huge number of online groups that you can join with like-minded people. Look for local or global Facebook groups or Meetups to connect with others, look for influencers in your chosen field on social media who you can follow and develop a connection with, research organisations or institutions near you that might have events or courses you can attend. Networking is a great way to connect with people who can help you expand your circle and get you in touch with the right people.
Leverage your digital footprint
As many workplaces are transitioning to remote offices, it’s becoming increasingly common to look up potential employees online during the recruitment process. You should consider your privacy settings on social media and think about what your digital footprint tells future employers about you.
However, having a digital footprint can also work in your favour. You can use the web to create an unofficial portfolio on a website, using social media, or using a content delivery platform. Think about how you can develop your skills and demonstrate your passion and knowledge for sustainability. Some ideas include writing blog posts about sustainability topics that interest you, creating a photography portfolio through instagram, or even starting your own podcast to discuss your interests. The power of the web and presenting yourself in these channels is not only a great marketing tool for you, but also gives you even more opportunity to connect, network, and collaborate with like-minded people and businesses.
As with many career paths, jobs in sustainability are highly competitive. As more businesses realise the need to incorporate sustainable practices and goals, more people have also realised the need to ‘do good’ in their professional as well as their personal lives.
Perseverance is critical to starting your career in the sustainability sector. Consider seeking out roles in small to medium sizes enterprises (SMEs) and always make sure to personalise your application. It may be easy to get discouraged when you are rejected, but if you are proactive and passionate about your goals, you will find yourself on the career path you’ve been seeking sooner or later.