How to kick start your career in the environment and sustainability

We’re delighted to feature an #EdEcoCareers guest blog post from Kirsty Peck, University of Edinburgh Alumnus, who graduated with a BSc in Ecological and Environmental Sciences in July 2018. Kirsty now works in a marketing role at IEMA, the professional membership body for everyone working in the environment and sustainability. Read on to find out about Kirsty’s career journey so far and some great advice on starting a career in the environment and sustainability sectors.

My career journey so far…

  • My degree allowed me to develop skills and knowledge in a wide variety of areas including biodiversity, conservation management and environmental pollution while also giving me a broad understanding of general physical, chemical and biological sciences. Although I knew that this would prepare me well for any career within the environment and sustainability sector, I found it difficult to pinpoint an area within the sector to focus my career.
  • After graduation, I began searching for things that would help me to get work experience in the sector to become more employable and to decide on a career path to pursue.
  • I signed up to a couple of different volunteering opportunities which predominantly saw me undertaking ecological surveys on endangered species. These really enhanced my skill set, complimented my studies and gave me a really good insight into what it was like to work in this sector.
  • I attended careers talks hosted by the University of Edinburgh Careers Service which highlighted the benefits of becoming a member of a professional body. I also noticed that most job opportunities of interest to me required applicants to be a member of a professional membership body.
  • I joined IEMA as a graduate member.

Why you should consider joining a professional body

  • It looks great on your CV; you often get professional recognition from it. Plus, it helps to stay up-to-date with everything that’s happening within the sector.
  • Networking! I went along to my first IEMA event a month or so after joining. It was a casual networking event held in a bar in Edinburgh. I met professionals working in lots of different areas within environment and sustainability. It was great to hear their career journeys – how they got into their roles, what they did day-to-day and the skills they needed. I also got job application tips and some even offered me work experience!
  • Volunteering opportunities. I joined the steering group of the IEMA Futures Network – a group which sets out to achieve engagement of early and future environment and sustainability professionals to allow their voices to be heard and lead change for future generations. It was a volunteering role that allowed me to get involved in organising and hosting events, writing articles for IEMA’s Transform magazine and contributing to the IEMA Futures newsletter. After volunteering for a few months, I realised that I really enjoyed the role of communicating technical environmental and sustainability issues with a ‘learner’ audience. I found it extremely rewarding to share my knowledge with others and, in turn, learn from my peers. This led me to expanding my own personal network and ultimately making new friends.

My current role at IEMA

My volunteering role soon developed into a career opportunity and I started as Membership Marketing Officer at IEMA in January 2019.

My job role now is predominantly marketing. However, I use my environmental knowledge and experience every day, engaging IEMA members and non-members with the environmental issues that we face and working with them to find ways of tackling those issues.

My top tips for starting a career within the environment and sustainability sector

  • Join a professional membership body.
  • Take advantage of networking opportunities. Networking isn’t as scary as it sometimes sounds, and it can be extremely important in making the right connections at the beginning of your career. Don’t be afraid to go along to events, exchange business cards or LinkedIn profiles and get in touch with them after the event.
  • This not only looks good on your CV. It expands your knowledge, enhances your skills and helps you to start identifying what you like doing and what you don’t. If I hadn’t taken on my volunteering opportunity with IEMA, I wouldn’t have discovered that I love communicating science – which ultimately led to my job role.
  • Explore a variety of career opportunities. After working in the sector for over a year now, I’ve realised that the skills held by environment and sustainability professionals are desired in lots of different areas of business; from finance to construction and everything in between. Do some research and don’t be scared to explore careers in a variety of sectors and business areas.

Final thoughts…

With the current climate and environmental emergency, I believe that it’s important to recognise that environment and sustainability professionals are required in so many areas of business, (like mine in marketing) and not just those that we might traditionally associate with this sector.

Interested in finding out more?

IEMA are attending our Environmental Careers Mini Fair on Wednesday 4th March 2020 – sign up via MyCareerHub.

(Image credit: Kirsty Peck)


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