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Surviving and Thriving in the Sustainability Sector

By Manpreet Dhesi, on 16 February 2015

You’ve sent in your application, aced the interview and now you’ve got that all-important first job. What then? Whether sustainability is a passion that’s taken you into education or an NGO, government or private sector, there are some common challenges you’ll encounter. And overcoming these will be essential in allowing you to flourish in your current (and future) roles. 

So once you’ve got your foot in the door, what then? Here are the Sustainability Team’s insights into what’s needed to survive and thrive in your sustainability career.

1. Celebrate the small stuff. Creating positive change is hard. And even small changes often take a lot of time and effort to achieve. So whether you’ve run a successful event, won some funding, or just got 20 more subscribers to your newsletter, make sure you celebrate your wins.

2. Change your mind and keep learning. One of the benefits of this field is that it cuts across a wide range of themes and roles. Whether it’s as communicator, auditor or policy-writer, you’ll find that most roles include lots of different disciplines. Keep topping up your skills and getting any training that’s available. And don’t be afraid to chop and change; there may be indirect routes into what you want to do.

3. Accept that we don’t all speak the same language. Even in a small organisation, you’ll likely find as many views about sustainability as staff. And in most cases, your agenda will be just one of many. Whether you’re interested in environmental auditing or grassroots campaigning, build your communication skills and make your ideas relevant to the people you work with. Learn to meet people where they are. After all, even great ideas rarely speak for themselves.

4. Make friends and collaborate. Creating a more sustainable world really will take all of us. And more often than not, you’ll be relying on the goodwill of others to support your work. So whether it’s by running stalls, through social media, or meetings with that all-important free tea and cake; start developing friends, allies and sense of community around your aims.

5. Keep your interest alive! It’s unlikely that you got into the sector through a love of long meetings about recycling bins.  Whether it’s through books, film, travel or just being outside, find ways to remind yourself why you got involved in this area in the first place. This is a brilliant field to be part of; don’t lose sight of it!

To find out more about the UCL Sustainability Team visit their website, follow them on Twitter and Like them on Facebook.

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