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Kickstart your career in environment and sustainability

As part of our #EdSustainabilityCareers campaign Kirsty Peck, Education Engagement Officer with the IEMA (Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment), gives her insights into starting out in this field.

A few years ago I wrote a blog on how to kickstart your career within the environment and sustainability profession. Although some things have changed and progressed in the time since that last blog was published, one thing that hasn’t changed is the climate and environmental emergency that we face. We must continue to work to make all jobs greener and educate everyone on how they can support the transition towards a green economy. Here’s an update on my sustainability career journey and some tips and insights I’ve picked up along the way.

My career journey

I graduated from Edinburgh University back in 2018 with a BSc in Ecological and Environmental Sciences. I learned a lot from my degree – not just the technical aspects, but so many transferable skills too. I currently work at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) as an Education Engagement Officer. I’ve been working at IEMA for almost 5 years now, and in that time, my role, skills and experience have grown. My current role involves me working with students, graduates, and universities across the world to share IEMA’s support and resources, promote green jobs and skills, and ensure the next generation have the right skills and knowledge to produce a greener workforce.

My job might not be what others, or even myself, would have traditionally thought of as ‘working in sustainability’, but I think it’s so important to remember that working in sustainability looks very different for everybody. There are roles you might not have thought of, industries you might not have heard of, and the opportunity to make any job greener. So, if you’re interested in having a career that will make a positive impact, hopefully some of the information I’ll share below will help to get you on the right track.

What might a green career look like for you? 

Here are my insights and advice.

  • Learn about yourself. If you’re not yet sure on your future career path, try identifying some of your key traits and skills, as well as attributes you want from a future job or employer. For example:
    • Do you like working with other people, being out in the environment, or working by yourself?
    • Are there particular sustainability issues or challenges you care most about?
    • Which companies are doing work which interest you? Try following companies on social media to find out more about their projects, focusses and goals.
  • Do your research. Searching ‘sustainability careers’ brings up so many results that it can be quite overwhelming. Trying some more focused searches, using keywords, the skills that interest you and the type of companies you identified before. There are also some great websites and resources popping up now including sustainability focused job sites which could really help your search. IEMA have also recently launched their Green Careers Hub, which has lots of videos, helpful advice, career profiles, and career stories. This is something that would have been really useful if it had been around when I was researching jobs!
  • Reflect on your transferable skills. You will have gained so many transferable or soft skills during your studies. Don’t shy away from these! It’s easy to focus on all the technical and academic aspects of your studies, but these skills can be so important in the workplace. Have a think about some of these skills, and which ones you think you’re particularly good at as this could really help you with your job search. This can also help you explore some of those less traditional sustainability roles. For example, if you’re analytical and enjoy innovating you might find you’d be well suited to a design engineer role or something similar.
  • Sign up to events & webinars. There’s always something you could be learning, a skill you could be developing, or people you could be meeting. Staying up to date in this space is key! Things are constantly changing and evolving which could make your search more difficult. Luckily, people working in sustainability are always sharing advice and best practice, so there are loads of events, webinars and learning opportunities out there. IEMA have a lot through their membership, but you can also find lots through other networks and LinkedIn. If you’re following passionate and inspiring people on LinkedIn you’re bound to find out about lots of interesting events!
  • This is something that some people find really scary. But I wouldn’t have got my first job if I hadn’t put myself out there and attended my first networking event. Meeting people already working in sustainable or green jobs can give you such great insights into the types of roles and work available. You can ask about key skills required for certain roles, which companies people work for, application processes etc. This where you can really utilise LinkedIn too. Make sure you have your profile ready and ask to connect with people you meet. Once you have that connection in place, it’s much easier to keep up to date with them and reach out to them in the future if you need to!

If you have any questions about me or my work, please reach out to me on LinkedIn!

Thanks, Kirsty!

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Kirsty in person on Wednesday 15th November at the “Meet people working in sustainability event” – see details on MyCareerHub.  


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