University students around the world are answering the call to climate action; doing everything from tackling food waste to developing a new manifesto encouraging universities to commit to a carbon-neutral future.
But what about graduate jobs in environmental sustainability and development?
From green investing to climate science, law, policy and sustainable design, there are a huge range of professional fields invested in a greener future, and they will all be on the lookout for graduate talent.
Here are four tips for students interested in building a career in sustainable development, including some advice from two graduates who did exactly that.
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1. You don’t need to have studied a STEM subject to get a job in sustainability
A degree in a STEM subject is not necessary to pursue a successful career that supports climate action.
Daisy Everingham graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2020 with a degree in history and now works as a marketing and communications coordinator at the UK Green Building Council.
“Since I don’t come from a science background, I thought I’d have no way into a sustainable career,” she says. “However, I realised I actually had the analytical and communication skills from my degree to begin a career in marketing – and I could use that towards the climate cause.”
While there will inevitably be roles in the sustainability sector that require a deep understanding of climate science, remember that’s only one side of the coin.
Companies that focus on sustainability will need the same amount of designers, writers, lawyers, accountants and business strategists as any other business, meaning you don’t always have to have studied a sustainability-related degree in order to qualify you for a role in the sector.
“Sustainability is a growing industry open to all – no matter their skill set” says Daisy.
2. Work experience goes a long way
Getting some work experience related to sustainability outside of your course can give you a boost in the eyes of environmentally conscious employers.
“My advice to current students would be to get involved with the sustainability movement outside of your studies,” says Daisy. “For example, I wrote a few articles for a student environmental organisation and showed commitment to a local community garden. It doesn’t have to be much, but it’s a sign to an employer that you really do care.”
Nathan A Stuck studied an MBA at the University of Georgia Terry College of Business and now works as the director of culture and strategic impact at Ad Victoriam Solutions. In this role, he helped the company gain B Corp certification, which involves getting the business to commit to several social and environmental impact initiatives.
While at business school, Nathan got involved with the university’s net impact club, and worked on a B Corp Certification project at the company that he would later join full-time as a graduate.
“It’s really important to get involved in as many experiential projects as possible,” he says.
3. No matter the company you work for, you can be a part of the sustainability movement
Another thing to remember is that while you may initially be drawn to companies and organisations directly involved with tackling the climate crisis, every company has its part to play in promoting sustainability.
“No matter the role you take or the company you work for, you can be a part of the sustainability movement,” says Nathan. “Lots of the traditional metrics used in business can be supplemented with KPIs around sustainability, culture, and impact.”
Remember you can promote sustainable action in nearly any profession you end up in, whether that’s by lobbying your workplace to use less plastic, or integrating sustainable development goals into your company’s metrics.
Many companies that aren’t directly related to the environment will be conscious of their impact on the climate and open to hearing about possible changes, allowing you to bring sustainability into your role.
4. Network network network
As with any other sector, networking is an invaluable skill when it comes to career development in the sustainability world.
As you work out which roles might suit you, why not use tools like LinkedIn to connect with people currently in those positions?
Understanding other people’s career paths is a great way to learn what you need to work on to get ahead.
You can also network by “playing the student card,” says Nathan. “Get in touch with your university’s career centre and ask for a list of alumni that work in sustainability to connect with,” he advises.
“I’ve found that just about everyone that works in this field is more than willing to give you some time and tips and even open their network to you,” he adds.
Be sure to take advantage of your time as a student and build that network, while learning from those in the role you want.