Environmental Careers - Part 1
On Monday 5th March People & Planet Society held an excellent careers evening inviting several professionals to speak about environmental career options. This is a summary of what the speakers shared and the great advice they want to give to any student interested in an environmental or "green" career. Today in part 1 we have Andrew Todd from the environmental consultancy Verco Global, Carys Barry, the Digital Engagement Manager from the Soil Association and Peter Phelps from University of Bath. In part 2 we will have Dr Phil Taylor who talked about Plantwise, an international development project, Chloe Newcombe - Jones, a Town Planner from BANES and Gabor Valter from the Green Party. See Part 2 blog entry here.
The chair of the People and Planet Society at Bath welcomed the event and shared the exciting work the society is doing on campus with regards to sustainability through events, blogs and campaigns. Ff you are interested to know more about what the People and Planet Society does on campus, please read more about this great society here.
Here is a summary of what I learnt from the event which I hope will inspire you!
First up was University of Bath Chemical Engineering graduate Andrew Todd, Head of Energy and Resource Management for Verco Global, an environmental consultancy.
Verco is dedicated to mitigating climate change and shaping the future of low-carbon industry. As a consultancy Verco works with bigger organisations and companies to develop environmental strategies but also works with smaller organisations on different low-carbon projects. If you are interested in knowing more about Verco – read more here.
What I found interesting was that the consultancy employs a variety of people from different degree backgrounds, mainly engineers and tech specialists, but also graduates from any degree with regards to their policy work. Although a scientific background is desirable, a real passion for sustainability and what Verco mean more than an actual science background for their policy and strategy work. However, please note that often applicants with no scientific background have taken a further postgraduate study in sustainability.
How can you get into working in the sustainable industry or environmental consultancy work? Andrew gave us some golden tips which following speakers agreed with wholeheartedly.
- Get relevant experience if possible, but any work experience counts and most companies won’t employ someone with no experience, volunteering or extra-curricular activities on their CV.
- Do your homework on the company, know the role you are applying for. This should shine through in the cover letter and in the interview.
- Always do your research for “why the company” in the cover letter, it is surprising how few students do this! Of a hundred applications, a clear minority does this section well!
- Align your cover letter with your passion for working in the company/sector, showing motivation and passion for sustainability is key
I will definitely emphasize this advice in my appointments with students, as they are true for all sectors and jobs, not just environmental careers!
2) Second speaker was Carys Barry, Digital Engagement Manager at Soil Association.
The Soil Association is the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. Carys talked about how the charity certifies organic products, lobbies the government, works with schools, hospitals and more plus their work with the community and implementing small changes to make an impact with the individual. You can read more here: https://www.soilassociation.org/about-us/
Carys manages the charity’s social media channels, digital campaigns, digital design, volunteer management and policy/strategy work! What I found interesting was Carys route into her environmental career as Carys does not have an academic background in science nor in digital engagement! Carys graduated with a Philosophy, Economics and Politics from Belfast and she had had no idea what she wanted to do when she graduated. She decided to spend her time after graduation volunteering at different charities during the day and working as a support officer at night to get enough cash to live on. Through volunteering and her desire to work in the sustainable industry she successfully applied for a role at the Soil Association.
Her advice for students wanting to pursue a career was:
- Try and get as much “green” experience at University through volunteering, joining a society and taking any relevant modules available in your degree. Even though she successfully found a job through volunteering after graduation, she emphasized that this was stressful and as a student you will have lots of opportunities to get involved whilst at University and this will get you ahead in the job hunt.
- There is high competition for jobs in the charity and non-profit sector, you may need to apply for loads of jobs before being successful. Stay resilient and keep on applying.
- When you are applying for volunteer roles, try and find roles that align with what you want to do. For example, Carys wanted to get more experience in digital management and therefore she applied for volunteering roles where she could get this experience and knowledge. Volunteering should work both ways, be a benefit for the organisation and you!
- Focus on fewer things in your application. When it comes to applying for jobs, less is more. You don’t need to include everything! Show your passion and include relevant experiences and skills.
3) Third speaker was our very own Peter Phelps, University of Bath’s Energy and Environment Manager.
He talked about all the impressive work him and his team do to reduce its environmental impact including sharing information about their Leave no Trace, award –winning Switch off campaign and the fact that the University is the first university to introduce coffee cup recycling! Peter is involved with eco-design of new buildings, university’s environmental policy and strategy, waste and recycling and much more. Read what he and his team does here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/estates/energy-sustainability-environment/index.html
Peter shared that his career path had not been linear and that he had had lots of different jobs since graduating in chemical engineering from Bath, including several jobs in engineering, white goods, design and even a beer factory, plus he studied a MSc in Environmental Science when he wanted to focus more on his interest in sustainability.
His careers advice was similar to the other speakers but also included:
- Get wide variety of experience with a wide variety of employers, find out what you like!
- Transferable skills are important, any experience is better than none!
- If you don’t have a scientific background make sure you read up on your technical and scientific knowledge so that you can separate actual facts vs “greenwash"
- Carbon/sustainability literacy is vital, research and talk to people!
- If you can't find a job in a green organisation, try and have an impact from within! Change their recycling processes, work on strategy etc to get relevant experience.
- There is no single best route, life is random!
Stay tuned for more great environmental careers in part 2!
Do you feel inspired? University of Bath Careers Service has many online resources for those of you interested in an environmental careers. Check out our occupational resources list.