Sustainability is about the preservation of resources today in order to meet current needs and the needs of future generations, or in other words “the capacity to endure.” For businesses, sustainability means respecting the environment while maintaining commercial success. Individuals with a passion for green initiatives often seek jobs in sustainability but do not know where to start. Often times, sustainability roles are created by an individual already working with an organization, as they work towards implementing various sustainable initiatives.
Last month at UC San Diego Extension’s Career Week, Bob Gilleskie, Andrea Cook, and Erin Koch, local sustainability executives and UC San Diego Extension program advisors/instructors, outlined various paths to becoming a professional in sustainability. Some of the helpful tips discussed included to.
- Get connected. Most jobs are found through family, friends, and existing professional acquaintances. Go to networking mixers, join professional associations, and attend industry events.
- Volunteer. Ask to volunteer with an organization that you want to work with or get experience through the many nonprofit, conservation, or environmental organizations that need volunteers and/or board members.
- Find a mentor. Your mentor could be someone in a particular job you would like to have or a seasoned sustainability professional. Ask educated questions about their journey and advice on how to achieve your short term and long term goals.
- Refine your resume. Make sure your resume and cover letters are accurate, up to date, and without errors. Also, revise your resume and cover letter so it speaks to each individual company’s values and their current priorities.
- Do your homework. Investigate and ask yourself necessary questions before applying to a job or attempting to create a sustainability role. What is the organizations approach to sustainability? Do your skills match their needs?
- Write it out. If writing is one of your strengths, start a blog about a topic in sustainability that you are interested in, and get your name out there.
- Learn. Get continuing education. Learn sustainability fundamentals and keep up-to-date on emerging trends.
- Take initiative. Start sustainability initiatives in your current workplace and document them. If your company leaders see the value of what you implement, they may create a sustainability role for you to keep it going.
- Make a match. Many companies are becoming more socially responsible. You can incorporate your previous experience into a role involving sustainability. Enter a company you want to work for in a “normal” job and then find a way to incorporate sustainable practices into your particular role.
- Be patient. Although sustainability is viewed as a good thing, not all companies are open to incorporating sustainable practices into their operations. It may take a few positions to get to where you want to be, but your effort and time will be worth the wait.
All in all, there’s no golden ticket to landing a sustainability job. It’s a balanced, multi-pronged approach just as in any job search in any industry. The world of work has changed and individuals need to assume full responsibility for managing their own portfolio of knowledge, experience, interests and skills.
If you’re looking for guidance in your job search or need help identifying your next steps, UC San Diego Extension’s Life/Work Center can be a useful resource. Quarterly workshops and career coaching are available by appointment.
To gain a solid foundation in sustainability principles and applications in today’s business world, the Sustainable Business Practices certificate will provide you with the skills necessary to become a sustainability professional. Learn more at extension.ucsd.edu/sustainable.