This is a true career story as told to Sustainability Jobs , which is a career resource that lists thousands of environmental jobs.
Environmental jobs can be found in nearly all industries but itâ€™s not always what you know that gets you the job. I share my own job search experiences and what worked for me.
I work as an Environmental Sustainability Engineer for a forest products company and have been in this job for three years. The forest products industry includes manufacturers of wood building products, copy and writing papers, household disposables such as paper plates, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper and packaging such as cardboard boxes. All these products are manufactured from either trees or recycled paper.
As an Environmental Sustainability Engineer, I am responsible for ensuring that my company is using the best procurement and manufacturing processes to minimize the amount of resources used and the impact of using the resources on the communities and environments where our products are manufactured and consumed.
One of the main responsibilities of my job is managing the companyâ€™s fiber certification program. This program ensures the raw trees we purchase come from sustainably and responsibly managed forest lands. This is important for several reasons. Sustainably managed forest land ensures trees are re-grown, protects natural habitat for wild life and ensures the longevity of forests for future generations to enjoy.
Environmental Sustainability – A Growing Field
Environmental sustainability jobs are within the growing field of Sustainability. I worked informally in this field for the past six years with my duties split between product engineering and sustainability functions. It wasnâ€™t until three years ago that I obtained a formal position focused entirely on the environmental sustainability aspects.
More companies are adding full-time positions in this field but a lot of the positions emerge out of existing roles within environmental, product engineering or quality departments. The job my company offered was listed on several websites including Monster.com, and was also recruited for via a recruitment firm. My job search that led to this position took about four months.
Importance of Having a Networking Contact
One important lesson that I learned through this job search was the value of having a contact within the company. It is not necessary to personally know the person but a friend of a friend, or even a networking contact youâ€™ve met within the company, that is willing to help with advice and navigate the application process can be essential to getting a foot in the door.
Like most jobs these days, the application process started out with submitting a resume and cover letter online. I felt I had the perfect skills and experience for the job but was frustrated that I was not getting any response back from the company. I resubmitted three or four resumes, all formatted differently, highlighting different skills and accomplishments but to no avail.
It was not until I found a contact within the company that I got any response from the internal recruiter. A co-worker from a previous company I had worked with mentioned she had a friend who worked at the company I was applying to. She put me in touch with this person who was very willing to personally hand my resume to the recruiter in the HR department. Two days later, I had a phone interview scheduled. Ever since this experience, I have always recommended to job searchers to find a contact within the company they are applying to.
Donâ€™t Be a Skeptic
Finding a contact can sometimes be difficult, so another piece of advice I give to job seekers is to network. I have heard and read this advice numerous times and initially I was skeptical. It seemed to be a lot of work and also outside of my comfort zone as I am fairly introverted. However, without networking I would never have found the contact within my company that led to getting that first interview, and would also have not found the contact that got me my previous job.
Effective Networking Means Asking for Advice, not Jobs
Networking is not asking people to help you find a job, but rather asking for advice regarding your job search. People love to give advice. The key to networking for job leads and advice is to constantly add your job search into everyday conversation. During my own search, I was constantly telling people that I was looking for work, what kind of job I wanted, what my background was and anything else that might be useful information.
I also sent emails to former colleagues, professors and acquaintances letting them know I was in the job market, gave a brief description of my background, target companies and job titles and stated I would appreciate any advice they could share with me. An attorney my husband had worked with once let me know of a small manufacturing company he had represented that was hiring engineers. I received a formal introduction to the owner of the company. I had that job within a week. Talking to an attorney for advice on an engineering job search may not sound fruitful, but it illustrates that you never know who people know.
Always Thank People
A final piece of advice that I have always followed is to thank people. When I have been hired, I always get compliments from my new manager that I sent a thank you letter after the interview. I send thank you notes for phone interviews, in-person interviews, and also to networking contacts that have helped me. The attorney got a thank you note from me, as did my friend and her friend at my current company.
Patricia C has a degree in International Relations and enjoys learning from other cultures and traveling.