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UCL Alumni Professional Networking Event: Environmental Careers

By news editor, on 12 June 2012

Emily Everett, UCL Alumna (English Language & Literature 2008)

At a time when jobs are scarce and young professionals often disgruntled, a foot in the door can seem more like a leg up into that unattainable world of satisfying employment.

It’s why I’m never surprised to see each of UCL’s award-winning professional networking events so well attended; the opportunity to scribble down some sage advice while adding to your industry contacts is too good to pass up when the job market is so competitive.

Refreshing optimism
Wednesday’s panel on environmental careers stood out to me because of its surprising optimism – the result of a professional field that is still growing and expanding, instead of stagnating like many others.

Caroline Pitt described her career path as “the story of indecision”. Being unable to choose between geography and economics, she settled on joint honours and found in her research that she most enjoyed raising questions and then seeking answers to them, a critical part of environmental economics.

After working her way up at a small company, she is now a consultant for Utilyx, advising FTSE 500 companies on how to use less energy and stay competitive.  Since she also worked for a time in government policy-making, she shared insight on the way that the process and end results can differ from public to private sector environmental work.

The scenic route
Christian Smith used words like “wander” and “meander” to describe the journey to his current role; after living around the globe for a few years, he returned to UCL and earned an MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development. His dissertation, titled ‘The End of Fast Fashion,’ helped win him a position as CSR Manager for online fashion retailer ASOS.com.

He painted a promising future for eager grads, pointing out that as more and more companies start to engage with sustainability and concern themselves with resource scarcity, the jobs in this sector will only increase. Christian also offered some hints on networking and getting yourself noticed, with regular events like Green Mondays.

Keith Leung told the attentive audience, “By being here, you’re already much more career-minded than I was.” After completing two degrees, in Environmental Geography and Remote Sensing, Keith interviewed “on a whim” for risk management and reinsurance giant Aon.

A model career
In this past role, and his current position at JLT Re Analytics, he works on modelling catastrophes in the field of reinsurance (where insurance companies manage their risk in terms of floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters). He advised graduate hopefuls to use LinkedIn to make personal connections with employers; all the panellists laughingly agreed that anything you can do to avoid HR would pay off.

The Q&A section of the panel raised many interesting debates about the current and future dynamics of the environmental and sustainable jobs field.

The effects of slashed government funding, the dominance of carbon in the corporate sustainability discussion, and the ways to stand out as a job applicant all prompted discussion among the panellists and, occasionally, the audience members.

Dr Bell joked, “I would love to be out of a job,” since in an ideal world, the environment wouldn’t need protectors or consultants to defend it. But since problems such as resource scarcity and pollution continue to grow, it does promise more opportunities for those looking to work for its preservation.

Image: Event participants during the Q&A (Credit: Zhao Haoyang)

Watch a video of the event below:

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