EVENTS & INSIGHTS / INSIGHT

How to be a sustainability comeback kid (with kids)

by Shannon Houde

In my recent column for Greenbiz, I offered some advice to a mother who is re-entering the sustainability sector after a five-year career break (and new life with kids).

Balancing home and career can be a challenge – particularly so for mums and dads. Many of my clients have found that the flexibility they need can be hard to come by in a competitive global economy. What’s more, if you took time off to be at home with the kids, the market will have moved on in the time you were away.

So how can a former corporate responsibility/sustainability (CR/S) employee bridge the gap and find a high-level role that will enable them to have impact as both a parent and a professional?

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Below are two key tips to doing just that:

Your brand through a new lens

There are more qualified sustainability-related professionals in the market than there were five years ago. When competition increases, so does your need to present a compelling story and tight marketing materials to any prospective employer. Make sure your personal brand materials – your pitch, your CV, cover letter and LinkedIn profile – are convincing and fun to read!

A CV should be populated with impressive statements outlining accomplishments that prove impact, rather than listing responsibilities with boring overused verbs and connectors. Start with mapping your skills to a specific role or career path: decide where you want to go first (role, industry, level, CR issues, etc) and then develop a compelling story that is relevant and irresistible to a hiring manager.

The language of CR/S is constantly changing too. Make sure you can navigate between Creating Shared Value (CSV) and sustainability versus sustainable business and corporate citizenship. Also, trendy terminology is always popping up – such as systems thinking, impact investing, B-Corps, social enterprise, and so on.

Stalk new role models

Identify which roles you’re interested in and the people in them that excite you. Figure out whose career life you’d like to emulate. There are many professionals with families and jobs in CR/S, so make it your business to find out who they are and how they do it. The internet is your oyster!

Start by picking a few dream companies, a few dream job titles and Google away – there are some inspiring women leaders featured in this recent Guardian Sustainable Business article, including Nike’s VP of Sustainable Business and mum of 2, Hannah Jones. Once you have a list of real people in really exciting roles, reach out to them through email or LinkedIn. Try to understand their journey, their challenges, their insider perspective. Follow them on Twitter, connect with them and get the answers you need directly from the horse’s mouth.  Use the opportunity to build yourself a new set of connections in the CR/S world.

The rush you’ll get from re-connecting with your old skills and experiences in the professional world will give you momentum, while the network you build up with your future peers in the industry will give you the evidence to choose the right direction for you.

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