How to write a CV for the environment and sustainability sector
Offering a wide range of roles for graduates and career changers, the environment and sustainability sector is also relatively buoyant. In a live Q&A on Breaking into the environment sector. specialist recruiters Acre report placing more applicants .
The IEMA (Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment ) explains on its website: "Even industries not previously aligned with environmental principles are now required to employ environmentally knowledgeable professionals. That means more jobs being created, opening up opportunities for those with an interest in the environment."
Employers are selective, and you'll need to meet various requirements: appropriate qualifications and/or training, the right skills and experience, and a demonstrable interest in the environment.
Work experience is essential even for graduate positions, says Emma Hoskyn, a consultant at Jones Lang LaSalle. Graduates can gain experience through placements or involvement in extra-curricular activities, while career changers should explore opportunities within their current roles – implementing an environmental project or joining a sustainability committee, for example. Volunteering also gives you practical experience and skills, while helping you demonstrate commitment and make contacts.
As not all jobs are advertised, networking is essential. Attend events, conferences and lectures, and join a professional body such as IEMA, which organises networking events and advertises jobs (many of which require IEMA membership.) LinkedIn is also useful, as you can build a network of potential employers and join relevant groups.
You'll need to prove you have the skills employers want. Find out what these are from the IEMA Environmental Skills Map. Don't neglect important non-technical skills, such as project management, verbal and written communication skills, presentation skills, or foreign language skills. Fabrizio Manco, a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University says. "In my field, the crucial key skills are a mix between experience (field work), technical skills (such as data management, statistics and GIS) and personal abilities (such as problem-solving skills and report writing).
Career changers also have useful business skills. Rosie Helson from Amida. sustainable development recruiters) says: "One of the most common requirements from my clients is 'a commercial skillset.' Demonstrate in your CV that you have strategy or business development skills, client-facing project management experience and other business skills."
Highlight your qualifications. A master's can be valuable, especially for specialist roles. However, it's not always necessary, as Change Agents UK (an environmental education charity) explains. "Environmental sciences as a master's is good for consultancy, Environment Agency and Environmental Impact Assessment work, but not so crucial in many other positions, where communications, risk-management, behaviour change and carbon reduction techniques may be more valuable."
Other points to consider
At entry level, your CV shouldn't exceed two pages. Those with more experience may need a longer CV.
Focus your CV on the role, with
key information prominent in the first half, making it clear what you can offer.
Include a brief but tailored covering letter, conveying your interest in the role and sector.
Name, contact details, links to personal blog or LinkedIn profile.
Consider putting the job title as your CV heading immediately after your contact details. This helps position you for that job – useful for career changers.
A brief summary of relevant experience, key skills and/or specific qualifications. Include your membership of professional bodies and environmental organisations or communities.
You can incorporate your skills within your profile, or put them underneath in a separate key skills section, divided into technical skills and business skills, such as management, communication, and so on. Give examples of how you've used your skills.
Many recruiters and hiring managers prefer this in reverse chronological order, but career changers may need to refocus this section. If you have significant voluntary work in the sector, you can create a sub-section for it, with your non-environmental employment (even if current) in a separate section underneath.
If you're involved in a sustainability project in your existing role, highlight this over other role responsibilities.
2009 – 2012 Office manager at X Company
Devised and rolled out the Green Office Campaign, involving all 2000 employees:
• Sourced green office supplies, saving more than £XX in six months
• Reduced water usage by 15% through an awareness campaign
Quantify impacts and benefits, such as how much you reduced water or energy use, or how much money you saved the company.
Highlighting results in a project-based CV format is also useful for consultancy positions. Sarahjane Widdowson of AEA gives an example.
"2012 - Local Authority X, Behaviour change campaign. Delivered a recycling behaviour change campaign, visiting 100 households and recruiting 50 people to become recycling champions."
(If you're a recent grad with limited experience, you can move this section to above your work history.)
In reverse chronological order, list relevant qualifications and training courses, with dates and institution details.
Give an overview of course modules and show how your studies are relevant. Graduates are expected to have a good knowledge of environmental policy, relevant legislation and environmental management systems, as well as research and analysis skills.
Also include details about any field courses, practical classes and placements undertaken as part of your degree.
(Optional: hobbies/interests; references)
If you're stuck for references, consider asking contacts from voluntary work or personal mentors to vouch for you.
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