Career in Sustainability: Find your Niche
The Step Up sustainability Career method
The problem with finding the right niche in sustainability is that this field of work is HUGE. To keep this simple let’s forget that sustainability means different things for different business, people and organisations. So let’s part from a starting point that we all agree that sustainability refers to protecting the environment and achieving social justice. Just here we have the first dichotomy, are you eco-centric (put the ecological environment first)? or anthropocentric (put people first)? Or are you somewhere in the middle? You can read this article if you want to learn more about that.
After we dispel that mystery, we need to know about one’s motivations, to really understand what sector would you prefer to work for. Could that be a Governmental body, national or local, or do you prefer to work internationally. Or may you fit better within an NGO? And if so what type? Or are you the corporate type and if so in what area: compliance? (legislation and policy); Implementation? (working on greening the industry’s process) or CSR (helping bridge the gap between theory and practice? This is if you are already facing the job market and want to find the right place for you.
However, if on the other hand you are thinking about continuing studies, even if you have a look at the above to set a general sense of direction. You will need to think from a different angle: fields of studies. Will that be more on the analytical and science end of the scale or on the humanities side? Will you go really specialist to develop deep expertise on something small and face less competition, but also less job opportunities? or will you keep it high level to have more opportunities even if you have to prepare to face the competition?
If you are going to think purely about the environmental side, just in this area there is a myriad of fields. Take conservation science for example, you can specialise in specific habitat type or even certain species or you can be more interested in the organisational management in that sector or even in communications, or in environmental law, will you work in conservation in rural areas or cities? Or you may be inclined to more global issues such as climate change, biodiversity, etc.
If we think on the social justice side we have a similar situation, double or triple the number of fields: Is education what really motivates you or is it health?, food security or well-being and shelter?, disaster risk reduction or migrations and refugees? And we can go on. You get the picture. It is an incredibly complex field of work, which is why you have to pick your battle ground.
This complexity if particular to this field because it is broader than many others and you do your specialization at work. Other professions don’t have that problem. Engineers and doctors for example come out of university with training to do the specific thing they study. But for sustainability professionals it is not that simple. That is why we need to do a lot of work to know our preferences and find our niche. And that is what our step up programme helps you achieve in a small timescale. To find your Niche.