9 tips to 'make your entry into the sustainability professional space' a success
This is my short (and hopefully fun) take on tips for young professionals entering 'green jobs'.
(Read this paragraph if you want to know my rationale behind this piece). So, I do a lot of reading. Especially around the topics of sustainability, green careers, circular economy, plastics etc. But in particular, I am a serial LinkedIn searcher. If I hear even the first name of someone working in an area I'm curious about, I am immediately onto LinkedIn - I don't consider myself someone who overuses social media, but perhaps this is my one exception... My mind often relates what I'm reading to something of relevance in my life (there's probably a cognitive bias explaining this). So, the piece below came when I was inspired by this WBCSD article. Although the article talks about the importance of effective collaboration in this era of sustainability, I found that all 9 tips the author offers are (in)directly relevant to how to 'make your entry into the sustainability professional space' a success. So that's what I named this piece - original, I know. (For clarity: I've copied directly the 9 tips, and added my own description of their applicability to entry-level sustainability professionals). Lastly, I don't mean to claim I know much about green careers, but rather these are my thoughts and reflections on my experiences in this space thus far.
1. Be clear on the ‘why’ and get firm commitment – To me, this means be clear on your Why; why sustainability, why [insert job function chosen], why [location], why you and why now? At the same time however, most first jobs are stepping stones to different positions, different industries, and different functions throughout your career. So first get to your core Whys, and then fulfill them - Do!
Inspiration for the colour-coder in all of us.
2. Be bold in your ambition – Go for it! Whatever 'it' is. Do you have a big goal or some change you wish to see in the sector? In business? In how we are thinking about or achieving our sustainability measures? Set your goals high and big, and then go for them!
3. Create real dialogue and don’t be afraid of the tension – So, this is one of the tips that doesn't tie so directly, but here goes! For me, what this has meant is that in informational interviews (or connecting with a professional in this space in some other way), I often ask questions about the area that I'm unfamiliar with. And of course we all know the saying 'you don't get what you don't ask for', but I do think this is especially relevant to careers in sustainability. Because it's a (relatively) new sector still, and there's a lot of questions people have (even people who've worked in business for years are unsure of how sustainability can fit into the picture and keep them being profitable). Ask the questions you want to know the answers to. That's how we (humanity) move forward.
4. Adopt a principles-based approach – The author of the WBCSD piece talks about these as "touchstones to maintain a common mission, to keep us on track and to allow for critical and objective questioning of proposed projects". In the same way, and similar to the first point above, it's important to consider your personal and professional values at play, as well as how they fit into the values of the community, work environment, or mindset of people you surround yourself with. If we have goals in common, we are more likely to achieve them: together, and faster. And that's exactly how (I think) we need to go about the problems of environmental sustainability.
5. Establish leadership and touch points across the whole company – So, in this context I use leadership to mean mentorship, and connector-ship (this may not be a real word, but let's carry on). Be connected. In your network and others. Find people who inspire you and fuel your curiosity. Follow the leaders you believe in, and then be one yourself (if that's for you).
6. Be strong on governance – Right... this one doesn't quite relate. But, the author does talk about the importance of communication, and in particular in managing various stakeholders with personalised goals and needs - the crux of any sustainability matter.
7. Commit to openly sharing knowledge and expertise – I love this one, because it's not about competition amongst peers, colleagues, or whomever. Rather it's about collectively improving our current (and future) state on this planet, and that comes with openness and flexibility - in our mindsets, in the information we share with one another, in our skills etc. It's a wonderful thing to have knowledge, and then to share that knowledge. I like the quote below as an extension of this thought.
8. Engage others, including civil society and government – This is an important point. And that is: no entity or group of people can tackle the issues of sustainability alone. The article mentions the importance of a mixture of agents collaborating: academic institutions, NGOs, government departments etc. Challenge yourself to speak to someone with different views than you (on a topic). Ask someone to question you about your beliefs, and you'll find it's often (and hopefully) a fulfilling conversation to have.
9. Celebrate success and make it mainstream – There's always negative news about climate change, heatwaves, plastics in the oceanic gyres. Spread a little joy around the things we are doing right on these fronts. We can do this, humanity!
I hope you enjoyed thinking about those 9 points as much as I did. That's it from me this time - in September look out for some guest writers on our blog. And, as always, if you have comments/feedback/or you want to write a blog yourself, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.