Finding a Job in Sustainability
Ask almost anyone what career they want and most likely they will mention a role that aligns to their values or that is purpose-driven. That is no wonder, given the scale of social and environmental problems that the world faces and the frequency with which we discuss these problems.
But the question then becomes, how do you go about finding a job that aligns to your values or enables you to fix the problems you see in the world?
As the founder of the And Now What? Podcast I am acutely aware of the struggles that people face when choosing a career. Indeed, my podcast encourages people to choose jobs based on their personality, values and purpose, rather than focusing on skill sets. I take that approach because although the division of labour means there are lots of varied jobs out there, a lot of their required skill sets are indifferentiable (I mean you just have to look at the majority of job applications to realise most people are after a team player with good communication skills!).
This is particularly important when it comes to finding a job in sustainability. Rather than focusing on the skill sets required, I believe you should first define what impact means to you and what impact you want to have.
One way of looking at impact is to look at scale – a clear example would be the fashion industry. How can you use your values to guide what type of company you work for and thus work you do? For example, as part of my Founder of the Week campaign on Instagram, I recently featured The Fruit Moth which is a sustainable fashion company making limited run accessory collections using remnant and vintage fabrics. It is a small business in which the founder is totally in control of her work and can therefore set her own ethical and sustainability guidelines. However, because it is small the scale of the impact is limited.
On the converse, you could work for a big fashion brand like Kering (which owns for example, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Alexandra McQueen to name a few). While you wouldn’t have control over the ethics and sustainability of the company, you may have a larger impact, especially because Kering is working hard to transition the company into a more sustainable brand.
As an example, I’ll take cashmere. Demand for cashmere has rapidly been increasing over the years. There are now 4x as many cashmere goats as there were 30 years ago. However, the environment where these goats live is fragile and cannot sustain the increase in numbers. Kering, due to its size, is able to support herders in the South Gobi desert of Mongolia to find ways to protect the environment and develop sustainable grazing to support the goats (1).
In the fashion example here, you can see how your values and the impact you may want to have could lead you down very different paths. Therefore, you have to ask yourself in which company do you see yourself more suited to. Once you’re suited to a company and job, you’ll be more likely to thrive and grow.
To conclude, I am not suggesting a right or wrong approach with these hypotheticals. Rather, I am encouraging you to think critically about the type of impact you want to have because it will affect what type of companies you end up wanting to work for. Which is extremely important!
Dedicate Your Spare Time to Causes You Care About
This may seem like an obvious one but it is surprising how many people can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.
In Episode 6, I spoke with Angela Rose about all the charity work that she does. She was inspired to do charity work because growing up, her Mum had been big into volunteering. Therefore for Angela, it was natural to spend her free time volunteering. She continued volunteering and contributing to causes she cared about as she grew up and continues to be actively involved in those spaces.
However, if you don’t grow up with volunteering ingrained into your lifestyle but you want to get involved in volunteering my advice would be to focus on one cause you really care about and find a charity or organisation that you like and dedicate your time there.
Similarly, if you want to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, definitely start small. There are so many huge problems that we want to solve but – to use an analogy – you can only climb the mountain one step a time. Don’t be daunted or put off by the thinking that you need a huge revamp of your lifestyle. Instead, take it step by step, day by day, decision by decision. Focus on selecting a couple of habits you want to change (buy reusable cotton pads for example or try to cycle around more often) and gradually filter more sustainable habits across your lifestyle. You’d be amazed how much easier it becomes to make lasting change that you can continue in the long run if you take everything step by step.
I genuinely believe that if you want to pursue a career aligned to your values or a cause you care about, it helps to first embody that lifestyle. You pick up vast amounts of information just by volunteering or changing your lifestyle which can help you to figure out what causes you’re really most interested in and, consequently, that can guide you to make better informed career choices.
Volunteering Does Lead to Job Opportunities
In Episode 4, I spoke to Alice Davis who works for the Dogs Trust Freedom Project which is a charity that helps women fleeing domestic violence by temporarily housing their dogs while the women find new accommodation.
Prior to working for the Dogs Trust, Alice worked for the RSPCA and a key reason she was able to get a job at the RSPCA – it is highly competitive – was because she was a volunteer. Alice had always volunteered with animals and by using her spare time to pursue something she loved, Alice made her dream come true.
Therefore, if you really want to pursue a purpose driven career, it’s never too early to start volunteering, becoming active in communities and embodying that lifestyle. You will soon notice doors start to open and you’ll find job opportunities you may not have otherwise have come across.
If you are looking to find a job that aligns with your values and is purpose-driven, I believe it is important to first embody that lifestyle to help you understand better what it is you most care about and enjoy. In doing so, new opportunities will open up that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible. And finally, work out what sort of companies you want to work for by defining what type of impact you want to have in your career. Website: https://www.andnowwhatpodcast.org/