I often get asked “How do I get a job in sustainability – do you have any tips”? Here you go! I shared my career path in my previous blog post (The journey towards a job in corporate sustainability) and here are some more general hints, which I kept high-level, as many factors depend on the region/country and the specific role you are looking for.
- Build up your skills, based on your ideal role profile: First and foremost you should have an idea of the role you want to work in, ideally by the latest when you choose your master studies. On the corporate level there are several options. Within a central Coporate Responsibility (CR) team (e.g. at Allianz our central CR team coordinates the group-wide activities) you have different roles which range from strategy and governance, to reporting and rating to environmental management, managing social programs and donations, to communicating the efforts internally and externally. On top you can find further roles in different departments, e.g. an HR specialist managing internal social topics (e.g. diversity and inclusion projects), a procurement specialist implementing sustainable sourcing practices and an investment expert applying ESG guidelines. This differs widely by industry and you will find experts in engineering on the production and packaging site, geologists in mining companies and so on.
So focus on the role you imagine to work in as early as possible, but keep an open mind at the same time.
- Also, don’t give up, if you are an experienced professional in a different field already. Try to gain expertise in the your topic of interest based on trainings/further studies and if possible get exposure to the CR function of your company. The range and amount of roles depend amongst other factors on the company size, as well as on the industry and the individual engagement of a company. Industries like e.g. food and textiles had higher visibility in the media and with this higher pressure to act sustainably than other industries.
- The following blog post also provides you with an overview of the most important soft skills needed as a Sustainability Manager, e.g. systemic thinking, the ability to manage conflicts and credibility. Ideally you build up your knowledge during your studies. If this is or was not possible, there are all sorts of trainings available. For some ideas please see my website (so far in German only).
- Get practical experience: Use internships to gain relevant practical experiences and to check if this is the right type and size of organization to work with. I would also encourage you to take a step back if necessary, if e.g. the job offer does not fully meet your expectations and your prior experiences (e.g. if you are already an experienced professional but would like to change career paths). When doing my PhD and joining Telefonica I also started with a temporary part-time role which soon turned into a role with full responsibilities.
- Network digitally: The digital world offers the opportunity to network across the globe. Use LinkedIn, Twitter and other channels to connect to or follow people, organizations and companies in the field. This helps you to stay up to date on developments, relevant conferences and job offers. To get an idea of whom to connect to or to follow take a look at my LinkedIn and/or Twitter Profile.
- Network in person: Participate in relevant conferences to meet and discuss with CR practitioners in person. Many conference offer cheaper tickets for students. Search for relevant conferences in your field in your country and you will soon get an overview of what is out there.
- Find a mentor: Look for a mentor, ideally somebody who is already an expert in the field and who is in a role you would like to work in. The field of sustainability is quite broad, so choose your path based on your background and interests.
- Think about starting in a consulting role: Due to the rising importance of CR and the need for more consulting support, consultancies and auditor firms like Accenture, PwC, EY and KPMG are currently recruiting many people across different levels. If this is for you to take a look at their offers. It is a good opportunity to gain first practical knowledge in the field and to build up your expertise across topics and industries/sectors.
- Job portals: Use job portals to keep up to date and to regularly receive job offers. Common portals also offer specific CS/CSR/CR roles (e.g. indeed, monster, stepstone etc.) and there are more and more specialized CR job portals and recruiters emerging as e.g. Acre, Weinreb Group, Walk of Life Careers, Talents4good. Those are often focused on specific regions and/or roles.
I hope this is helpful and provides you with a good starting point. In the end it all depends on two of the most important skills for Sustainability Managers: Persistence and patience. Good luck!
If you are interested to join the discussion you can also follow me on Twitter @SaskiaJuretzek.