Upon graduation, I continued to build my sustainability experience by taking on consulting projects independently and with San Diego-based Malk Sustainability Partners. I also wrote a series of articles for GreenBiz on social intrapreneurs. At one point while I interviewed with BSR, I was writing content and copyediting a sustainability report for a Fortune 500 company. This report writing contract gave me valuable experience to land the job at BSR.
I think the challenge of standing out in the field speaks to the increasing specialization and the increasing competition. It was essential for me to build and draw from my own experiences for success as a job seeker.
What advice do you give to job seekers today?
Sustainability in business is no longer a quaint subject relegated to the philanthropy department. It’s an emerging requirement for companies from markets, investors, and stakeholders and as such it is developing its own tools and standards.
Some aspects, such as reporting, have fairly established standards through bodies such as the Global Reporting Initiative and Carbon Disclosure Project. There are numerous opportunities for people with backgrounds in writing, reporting, assurance, and metrics using these guidelines.
Others, such as supply chain, are still grappling with challenging issues like traceability, sustainable growth in emerging markets, and new types of supplier relationships. Professionals with supplier and industry-specific experience in addition to a tolerance for ambiguity and the willingness to help craft those tools can excel.
Job seekers should focus on developing specialized experience in some of the areas you and I have talked about. They can reflect on previous experience and see where it might plug into the emerging functions or needs of specific industries. For me it was related to communications and reporting, for others it might be finance and business metrics or supply chain and scorecards.
We’re a field of professionals driven by passion but increasingly it's experience that is becoming the differentiator. As the field continues to specialize so do the demands of qualified sustainability professionals who need specific experience to solve sustainability challenges in business.