Amazing that it’s almost 2014! I thought this would be a great time to make New Year’s Resolutions to jump-start your environmental career. Here they are!
-Join a new professional group
-Attend at least one local networking event
-Make business cards and set a measurable goal to distribute them
-Find at least one new mentor in your chosen field
-Commit to a career strategy in writing
Join a New Professional Group. Seems like this would be an easy resolution, but often these groups can cost forty or more dollars to join. If you can afford it, do join them. Suggestions are the National Association of Environmental Professionals ($40/yr - student rate), National Environmental Health Association ($25/yr student rate), The Wildlife Society ($41/yr), North American Association for Environmental Education ($35/yr), and the Air and Waste Management Association ($35/yr). Some free options if your budget is limited: National Military Fish and Wildlife Association, local watershed associations (Google “watershed associations PA”, for example), and national or local environmental organizations (email subscriptions are free, membership fees vary – see http://www.nrdc.org/reference/environgroups.asp for a comprehensive list).
Attend at Least One Local Networking Event. Once you’ve found a new organization to join, comb their schedule of events to find either a networking event or a volunteer activity to participate in that puts you in contact with other members. Use these contacts to learn more about job opportunities and as mentors to help you further your environmental career. You need to put yourself “out there” and this is a very positive and professional way to do it!
Make Business Cards and Set a Measurable Goal to Distribute Them. Consider how important networking can be – and how much more leverage you gain from networking by leaving a contact/business card as you go. Even if you have a limited budget, business cards can be a close as your printer or low cost online. In addition to your contact information (email, phone number), carefully consider if you want to include a title or position under your name. One rule of thumb is to not use a title for which you are not fully qualified or one you have held. Instead, consider the following titles (if used at all on your card): Independent Environmental Researcher, Independent Environmental Consultant, Recent Environmental Graduate, or similar. In addition to or instead of a home address, you might also consider including “Willing to Relocate” on your card. Set a weekly or monthly number of cards you will distribute – the best way to accomplish something is to make it measurable and achievable. A professional card that you can leave with those you meet on a daily basis gets your name out there and certainly cannot hurt your chances of finding your dream job!
Find at Least One New Mentor in Your Chosen Field. Sometimes you find a mentor in the most surprising places. Talk to relatives and friends about your career aspirations. Engage current or past instructors from college, high school, or other training and ask their advice on getting into a new field. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help and advice – they’ve been there and have a lot to offer and often they don’t need to be in environmental careers to assist. If they are, of course, you can get more focused advice. I think you’d be surprised at how many people you will meet that are willing to help you!
Commit to a Career Strategy in Writing. Finally, I highly recommend following the first rule of keeping resolutions – make a plan and stick to it! This one takes some thought and a bit of time, but is a key step in entering a new career. It may be hard to get started, but take some of the suggestions here and go from there. Make sure your plan is written, contains clear goals and objectives, and includes outcomes that are measurable. Include regularly scheduled reviews of your accomplishments so that you can modify your plan as you go.
Here is a template of a career plan that will help you get started: Sample Career Plan
Best Wishes for the New Year!
Dr. Carol A. Pollio