You're pondering potential career paths, and for you, any old office job simply won't do. You look at the state of the world: disappearing rainforests, rising sea levels, melting ice caps - environmental destruction is the biggest threat facing humanity and the little blue dot we call home. Wouldn't it be amazing to walk everyday into your job that actually means something- to do work that truly makes a difference?
Well, you're not alone. It used to be an eccentric or niche career choice, but sustainability now dominates political and corporate landscapes. Competition is fierce, but there are numerous pathways to take if you have the determination and talent. Here are some tips to help you on your way:
Broaden your knowledge
There are plenty of fascinating sustainability degrees to sink your teeth into, and each year there are more and more compelling options. Considering the competition out there, undergraduate is pretty essential, so do your research and think hard about your interests, the course, the institution and your ambitions. It’s important at this stage to know your stuff about the sustainability sector at large. Economics, geography anthropology, urban planning – all of these disciplines factor into sustainability careers. Stay on the ball and keep up to date with environmental news and research some of the best companies to work for.
Then narrow your knowledge
Now you know a little about a lot, it’s time to start knowing a lot about a little. This is the stage where you figure out what really interests you. The best way to do may surprise you, but despite what you may have heard, when it comes to sustainability it’s not a good idea to go straight from your undergrad degree into post-graduate education. Sure, many employers will look for you to have post-grad academic credentials that line up with your chosen field, but the best way to ensure you’re doing the work you want to be doing is to, well, start working.
After graduating in your undergraduate degree of choice, it’s time to get out there for a year or two. You won’t truly understand what you like and dislike until you’ve got a bit of work experience under your belt. At this stage, smaller companies are a better option, as they’ll give you cross-sectional experience that allows you to try your hand at lots of different things, so don’t necessarily look for internships at the biggest companies around.
Choose the right graduate programme
Once you’ve got some work experience under your belt – and figured out what you like – it’s important to consider post-grad. These days, most sustainability professionals have a master’s degree, so it’s a good idea to go down this route unless you have heaps of relevant experience.
So, which post-grad route suits your best? Well, that depends on all the knowledge and opinions you’ve amassed on your journey so far. If you’re looking for flexibility, an MBA – or Master of Business Administration degree – is perfect for a broad spectrum of corporate sustainability jobs. If you’re looking for something more technical then go for a science related degree. There are plenty of post-graduate options that relate to extremely niche areas of the sustainability field, so take your time assessing your options and researching your courses.
Research your top choices and bring your A game
Sustainability is a rapidly evolving industry, with new challenges and technologies emerging every day. Once you’re ready to land your dream job, do your research on your top choices on what kind of sustainability mission they have, their place in the industry and what their future might look like.
When you’re interviewing it’s important to draw attention to everything you’ve learned about the industry, and, most importantly, highlight your passion and knowledge for the company, as well as the sustainability field in general. You’ve come this far – let your enthusiasm shine through.