How to get a job in sustainability

by Shannon Houde

In December, Eban Goodstein, Director of the Bard MBA program at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, opened his webinar with a simple question. “Will there still be jobs in sustainability given the results of the Presidential election?”

His answer – yes.

Though Donald Trump’s presidency will likely cause the nature of work in the sustainability sector to change, the nature of our reality will not change. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, we must figure out how to meet the needs of our growing population in a time when the earth is struggling to support us as is. Resources like water, oil and top oil are already extremely limited. Until we are able to develop solutions to address our changing climate and limited access to resources, our future looks pretty bleak.


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DC may be taking a major step back in the next four years, but that doesn’t mean that the sustainability sector will be shrinking. Our work will continue, even without the help of Washington.

With this in mind, Goodstein encouraged his audience to focus their sustainability job search in one of three categories. In case you missed the webinar, we’ve summarized these categories below.

Policy –Transforming the Rules

People traditionally think of policy jobs as focused in Washington DC. But in this political climate, the state and local governments will also play a vital role in the sustainability conversation. Even NGOs can start putting more pressure on government to create change. In order to build an attractive resume for jobs affecting policy change at the local, state or federal levels, Goodstein recommends focusing on experiential opportunities. This is a problem-solving sector, so you need to prove that you have success and experience solving problems!

Education – Transforming Public Consciousness

Goodstein again asked his audience to expand their thinking on what education jobs in the sustainability sector might look like. This category can encompass many more roles than just teachers and professors. What about artists, rabbis or community organizers? These jobs are for communicators, people interested in changing the dialogue and awareness around these issues. If this sounds like you, remember that these types of sustainability jobs don’t always exist. Sometimes, you need to take initiative and create these jobs yourself.

Business – Transform Big Business to Address Big Problems 

In the age of Donald Trump, we are going to have to radically redesign the tools we are using to create change. Business can and should be a major player in that conversation. Think about it – if we are going to cut our carbon emissions by 80%, businesses are going to need to figure out how they can help to get that number down. Thankfully, we are already seeing a huge trend in the development of new mission driven companies and other companies and major CEOs are starting to step up their sustainability game. But we still have a long way to go. Goodstein says that to help big business continue to address big problems you can:

1.     Start your own business

2.     Work of a business that is already mission driven

3.     Help existing companies become more sustainable

After exploring these three major categories, Goodstein left his audience with one last tip. “Really listen to what others want to do,” he said, “and then figure out how you can help them.” Find out who you want to be. Find out what you are passionate about. Then you’ll be ready to find a job in sustainability.

Feeling inspired? I can help you navigate this process by target your dream job, identifying your values, traits and skills, and mapping your story. Check out our coaching shop to learn more.

Photo credit: Life of Pix via Pexels


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