Susie Dalton is a Communications Executive at Vegware, the Edinburgh-based eco packaging company. She studied Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, while working in heritage education at the Museum on the Mound. After graduating in 2014, she joined Vegware in the Operations team before moving into the Communications team in early 2016.
Here she gives five tips for graduates looking for a career in the sustainability sector.
- Accept the sustainability sector is still growing and developing
Your ideal job may not exist. If there’s a particular job or field you’d love to end up in, work out which skills you’ll need to get there and then seek them out. Often the most valuable skills you can pick up will be from doing things that are totally unrelated to your field of choice.
For example, the communication skills I learnt while working in heritage education transferred easily to my current role in Vegware, and formed the basis for the skillset I’ve been building up. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to move into this role.
- Go extra-curricular and do your research
If there’s a particular field or company that you admire and would like to work in, don’t just wait for the ideal position to open up. Keep an eye on the events they’re speaking at, go along to relevant Open Days and sign up to mailing lists.
So many opportunities come from meeting people face to face. Plus, when that job opportunity does come along, you can casually drop in some of the recent stuff they’ve been doing – instant brownie points!
- Look for a company that gives you room to grow
Sustainability is a growing field, and it’s important to find a company or organisation that helps you to grow with it. Companies and organisations that want to invest in you and help your skills develop will often offer training opportunities, mentorship, and feedback systems which allow you to report back to your manager.
Don’t be afraid of asking about these in your job interview – it’ll give you a picture of what the work environment is like. For example, Vegware offer 16 – 25 year old employees the chance to gain SVQs in relevant skills while working – a great way to demonstrate professional development. Through this scheme, I’ve gained SVQs in Business Administration and Digital Marketing, just by doing my job!
- Never stop learning
Look for opportunities to learn new skills outside your work. Take online courses, go to training days, or teach yourself something you want to be good at. We have so many great learning opportunities that it’s no longer expected (or appealing) to choose one skillset and career path.
Watch this great Tedx talk by Emilie Wapnick on what she calls the ‘multipotentialities’.
- Your degree is not the be-all and end-all. In fact, it might not even be the beginning.
Don’t be disheartened if your degree doesn’t match your ideal job. Life post-university is a whole new world, and interests and priorities can change dramatically, meaning you might end up looking for work in a totally different field.
Vegware employees have amassed an eclectic bunch of degrees. Between fifty of us, we’ve got degrees in maths, drama, journalism, archaeology (hi!), economics, languages, history and design, to name a few. While some of us are doing jobs that relate to our degree, a lot of us are now doing something totally different. In short, your degree is not your destiny.