So what does this mean for CSR and sustainability jobseekers?
How can we best prepare ourselves for a jobs market that’s responding to this transition? The clear answer to me is by focusing on traits. Traits are the things that underscore the hard skills with which you do your job and answer the HR manager’s “do I want to work with you?” question. They are the approaches or styles of delivery that will help you communicate the concepts embedded in the circular economy and gain stakeholder buy-in, develop collaborative partnerships with key departments, forge new strategies out of old systems and identify progressive solutions to modern challenges.
It’s no longer enough to claim ‘great interpersonal skills’ on a sustainability CV – you need to demonstrate that you understand the agenda by listing traits that the company you’re applying to needs and wants to help it respond to today’s business landscape. Here, I break down the key traits the circular economy needs from its employees at each stage of the sustainability journey, inspired by thought leader Dr Daan Elffers’ recent article on the Guardian.
1) Traits you’ll need…if your company is not on board
Great traits: Translator, collaborator, long-term visionary, motivator
It’s crucial to communicate the importance of shifting the business model, so you need to make sure that everyone from the newest employee to the company stalwart understands why it matters and what their role is. Hiring managers will be looking for someone who naturally works in a collaborative way, brings a broad horizon perspective to their day-to-day work, and effortlessly communicates a strong, clear sense of where the company needs to end up. Inspiration and motivation are a key part of this call to action as they empower people to participate and contribute above and beyond their technical area. These are the traits you’ll need if you want to make a company that’s currently outside the circular economy break in.
2) …if your company is just starting to move to this model
Great traits: Strategic innovator, big picture thinker, creative approach, inclusive, explorer
Strategy and creativity coupled with a systems perspective are the approaches you’ll need to take in a company taking the first steps towards cradle-to-cradle thinking. While using key reasoning skills like assessment and evaluation to figure out what can be recycled, what can be reused and what should be phased out, you’ll need an innovative, open-minded and inclusive work-style that enables you to listen to others’ opinions while simultaneously thinking outside the box. An attitude that’s keen to things out and explore new ideas – while mindfully respecting internal stakeholders’ expertise – is what a hiring manager will be looking for from a sustainability professional at a company like this.
3) …if you want to transition to a role/company already doing this
Great traits: Connector, leader, influencer, dynamic, honest, positive
To bring key partners along with you on the journey, you’ll need strong leadership traits. Engaging suppliers, clients and business partners is an essential function for sustainability professionals in companies embedded in the circular economy, so dynamism, passion and the ability to influence will be super-important. As Dr Elffers rightly points out, being honest and transparent about challenges and taking a positive attitude towards dealing with them celebrates possibilities rather than obstacles, inspiring stakeholders, reinforcing your integrity and strengthening your brand. Sharing these experiences will benefit your relationships with your network – that’s the connector piece – and ultimately help you create enduring partnerships within a learning community that gives as much as it takes. As a sustainability practitioner, you’ll need to show that you can use your skills in combination with these traits to drive your company’s agenda – and the circular economy’s agenda – forward into new horizons.
Let me know what kinds of traits you think the circular economy needs in the comments below. If you’d like some help determining the kinds of skills, traits and values necessary for a bright career in sustainability, feel free to contact me.
This article was originally posted on CSRwire, you can browse Shannon’s previous articles here.