The urgent nature of climate change means that interest and opportunities in the field of environmental conservation are growing, but so is the competition. This means that people who want to enter this field need to have the right mix of knowledge and experience, even for entry-level positions. There could be dozens of applicants competing for a single job. Passion is important, but so is networking, extracurricular activities, and a coherent career plan.
People who are still in school should research environmental conservation and sustainability jobs and think about the specific roles they would like to take and what sectors they would like to work in. This can open up opportunities and help them better prepare for their future careers than a more general desire to work in “sustainability.” They will be able to develop unique strengths that can set them apart from other candidates. One way to find out more about the jobs that are out there is to look at LinkedIn and similar sites for professional networking to find out what types of jobs employers are offering and what people’s career paths look like.
Developing “soft skills” is important. This includes such abilities as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and leadership skills. Many extracurricular activities offer excellent opportunities to develop and display these skills. They can also give students more experience in the areas that interest them and demonstrate their commitment to the environment and sustainability. Knowing the many opportunities and a specific focus can come in handy because it can allow a dedicated student to start pursuing that focus. For example, students interested in sustainable civil engineering might look at very different opportunities compared to those who want to work in the nonprofit sector.
Volunteering and internships both offer chances to develop soft skills, acquire more knowledge and network. Students may also want to consider joining professional organizations that concentrate on the environment. Some of these organizations might have resources aimed particularly at students. School career centers may also be excellent resources. In addition to giving students more information about their chosen career, they may help develop a concrete career plan.