Insight from Your Fellow Student: Working in Sustainability

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Charis McCarter, MSc Environment, Politics & Development (graduated 2016) takes an honest look at how she’s secured a job in the sustainability field.

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Charis & the team at 2 Degrees Ltd

It seems rather surreal to be writing a piece for SOAS Careers when half a year ago I couldn’t even find a job!  I do (thankfully) have an awesome job now, but the process of getting here wasn’t easy.  For any of you looking for jobs right now and feeling disheartened; there is light at the end of the tunnel!  I know you’ll have heard it from your mum/dad/sibling/extended family/boyfriend/girlfriend/dog, but keep trying!  Hopefully my account of life post-university will reassure some of you that you will find a job… Just maybe not as quickly or as easily as you may have envisioned!

SOAS fostered in me my passion for the environment, but it also made me scrupulously critical of almost ALL organisations trying to address environmental (and developmental) issues.  That left me in a difficult position when I left – I had simultaneously opened my skillset to a range of jobs in the environment sector, and closed myself off from them by being so critical.  That combined with a crazy competitive job market anyway meant that it took me 2 months after I submitted my dissertation to find something that ticked my boxes in the right field.

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Charis demoing the M2030bee tool at the launch event at the Shard (which she worked on as part of her internship)

And even then, it was in the form of an internship.  Not exactly what I had envisaged after doing a Masters and having two years development experience in Uganda.  However, that internship paid off – I was offered a full-time job in the same company as an Assistant Engagement Manager at the end of it. I now help to source high-impact innovations that will help to reduce energy, waste and water in our client’s buildings for the Innovation Gateway.

While I am very fortunate to now be doing a job in the sustainability field, with a bunch of like-minded conscientious people, my journey here hasn’t been easy… So here are my top three tips for making your job search post-university that tiny bit more bearable:

  • Try an intern while you study.  Get in touch with a few companies that you like the look of and offer them your time and skills for a set amount of time each week.  This will give you an insight into the company, whether you like the type of work you’re doing, and access to a network of interesting people in that field.
  • Use your dissertation to explore a topic you’d like to work with/in in the future.  So many of my friends have got jobs because they highlighted the knowledge they had gained through writing on a specific topic.
  • Use SOAS Careers as much as you can!  I took my CV and cover letter to them several times and received invaluable advice about how to improve my applications, and they were super helpful even after I had left SOAS in giving advice. Make use of all the resources on offer by coming to the Careers Learning Zone (SL62, Paul Webley Wing) or contacting the team on careers@soas.ac.uk

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Charis & the team at 2 Degrees Ltd

Charis McCarter

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert careers@soas.ac.uk.

 

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