I spend much of my time at the moment imagining all the things I’m going to do once the current situation is over. It’s an almost compulsory topic during Zoom calls with friends – what do you miss most? What will you do first? Where will you go? Who will you see?
Together we produce endless catalogues of the ways we will entertain ourselves once we’re let loose from lockdown.
My list varies depending on the day but tends to be full of simple pleasures inspired by a new appreciation of what, now, feels most important – family, friends, fresh air, food, shared experiences. I dream not of travelling the world but of chatting with my mum in her garden, camping by the sea, going to a restaurant with friends or standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers at a concert. There’s nothing earth shattering or life changing on my list – except, of course, that there is – because I can do none of those things right now and my life feels changed because of it.
Some of my friends, however, have much bigger plans. For them, the enforced upheaval has provoked a wholescale life re-evaluation and they’ve decided big, dramatic changes are needed. They’re not satisfied with a life returned to normal but want a whole new life instead – including a new career.
As COO of Avieco, I’m often approached by those interested in working in sustainability. More often than not the desire to change career has been motivated by some meaningful transformation in the person’s life – often the arrival of children or a significant birthday – which has caused them to take stock and consider whether their current path will continue to provide personal satisfaction for the years to come.
In this unprecedented time people are re-examining things in a similar way. Whilst the catalyst for change may be external (children, the passing of time, pandemic) the motivations are often very personal – the desire to create positive change, do something that feels useful or necessary, or a quest for meaning in a confusing time.
For many, a career in sustainability fulfils these needs.
Before the pandemic, the sustainability world was booming – a mix of increased public pressure, scrutiny from investors and legislation meant businesses were taking action on an unprecedented scale. Even in these trying times we are keeping busy; and no-one sees sustainability dwindling in importance in the coming years – quite the opposite.
A growing market means more opportunities for those looking for work, but sustainability is an increasingly popular career choice so competition for positions is fierce. Even if you have many years of experience you will need to stand out from the crowd and some careful thought about where you best fit will help.
There are various roles on offer in the sustainability world – all with their own pros and cons. Do you want to be an in-house sustainability manager? Here broad sustainability knowledge is a must as you’ll get wide exposure to the company’s sustainability challenges and responsibility for leading a variety of projects. On the downside, progress can be slow if the leadership team has limited ambition.
Would a local authority position be more suitable? Such work can be very rewarding giving you the opportunity to have a real, often very visible, impact on your local area. However, decision making in the public sector is notoriously slow and budgets are often tight, which can be frustrating to those who want to move faster.
If you like variety and solving problems, then perhaps consultancy is more for you. You’ll get to work with different clients with diverse challenges, but you’ll need to be vocal with your expertise since clients are paying you to add value.
I’ve done all three of these jobs and, for me, consultancy gives the best mix of variety, interest, challenge and reward. No day is the same as each client brings their own unique requirements, and the pace is fast since they expect quick solutions.
Consultancies, these days, are made up of all sorts of people with diverse career histories and very different skillsets. At Avieco, our work is increasingly collaborative, and we actively design delivery teams to ensure we include different approaches and points of view. When recruiting, I’m not just looking for more of the same but deliberately seek complementary abilities and aptitudes to add to the team.
There’s a large choice of roles of offer – data analysts, engineers, researchers, software developers, architects, project managers, policy experts, management consultants and many more.
If you’re swapping career, accept that you won’t have the same depth of sustainability experience as other applicants, and instead focus on how you will bring new approaches, styles and tactics to the table.
A desire to drive change is not enough on its own – you need to identify the clear, concrete value you will deliver.
With a bit of thought, your apparent lack of experience could be an attractive attribute, not a weakness.
Interested in starting a career in sustainability? Check out our careers page for open positions.
more than a word.