The pathway to a fulfilling career in ESG is anything but linear. While the demand for ESG talent has never been higher, finding a role remains challenging. Maybe you’re a recent grad unsure of how or where to begin. Or maybe your calling is painting, or finance, or cooking, but you feel a burning desire to align your work with environmental and social impact. Perhaps you’ve spent decades building a career, but know that it’s time to pivot towards something new.
Last week, our team hosted a webinar to chat about ESG careers: which roles are most in demand, industry trends, and how to make yourself a leading candidate. Wherever you are on your personal ESG career journey, we hope you benefit from these words of wisdom from our team of communicators, strategists, and creatives. Here is some advice from members of the thinkPARALLAX team.
Advice for: When you’re just starting out
It might sound cheesy, but it’s true: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My biggest piece of advice is to start where you are. Think about what you enjoy doing, and what you’re good at doing — then do it. Start a sustainability-themed blog, organize an ESG association at your school, help your local cafe encourage customers to bring mugs from home. Add those projects to your resume. Weave them into your cover letters. Write lists of organizations doing great work, and visit their career pages often. Spend time building your LinkedIn. Gather the resources* at your disposal, and use them as tools in your toolbox. At UC Davis, I frequented our career center and read our job list every morning, a habit which landed me a summer internship at CECS. Over time, these little steps will forge paths to achieving your career goals.
Most importantly, be open to and proactive in making connections. Don’t be afraid to reach out asking for a quick coffee: the worst that can happen is a “no,” and the best that can happen is meeting people who unlock doors to amazing opportunities. Be open to where and how you might meet people — I once met a business connection on a camping trip! Most people want to help; you’ll pay it forward when it’s your turn.
- Eden Marish Roehr, Marketing and Business Development Associate
Advice for: When you’re already doing what you love
Your job doesn’t need to have “ESG” in its title to be meaningful. As sustainable business becomes commonplace, the ESG “umbrella” is larger than you might think — and while ESG specialists will always be in demand, other talents are equally important. Soul searching and deep reflection are key as you pivot to purposeful work. Beyond your resume, take stock of your unique skills, passions, and interests that might lead to new paths. A candidate with a marketing degree, for example, with experience in the food industry and a passion for sustainable food systems, could bring together these interests into a career in sustainable food communications. A sales aficionado could join a marketing team at a sustainable snack brand; a creative storyteller might apply to communications agencies whose case studies consist of impact campaigns for beverage companies; policy pros might be drawn organizations like Supply Change and Forest Trends, which track agricultural commitments to reduce environmental impact. If what you seek doesn’t materialize, entrepreneurship empowers you to innovate your own path.
Working in ESG can take on many different forms, but does not always require you to compromise your interests. Creating positive impact doesn’t mean to change who you are: it requires you to embrace and apply your unique talents to the work of bettering the world.
- Edison Miclat, Head of Creative
Advice for: When you’re taking a leap
After spending time building a career or honing a specific skill set, it can be daunting to change paths. But if you feel called to make a change, consider it a spectacular opportunity for growth, learning, and — to borrow from Mary Oliver — celebrating your one wild and precious life.
Some practical advice for making the leap: find people with the job you would want, and pick their brain on what skills, knowledge, and experience you need to get your foot in the door. Research what certifications** or classes might give you a leg up, and if possible, take them. Investing your time and energy now will expand your opportunities down the road. This process also asks that you check your ego: be open to accepting a less senior role or title in order to gain industry experience. Know that you can advance quickly if you demonstrate your skills and a speedy ability to learn. Last but not least, when applying, demonstrate how your past experience translates to the new role — and how your diverse experience provides hiring managers with more value than they might get from candidates who took a more traditional path.
- Janna Irons, Head of Strategy
Lastly, remember to trust — and even enjoy — the journey. Everybody’s career path looks different, and that is a beautiful thing.
Job boards and networking resources
Ed’s Clean Energy & Sustainability Jobs List
Cradle to Cradle by Bill McDonough
Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall
Losing Earth by Nathaniel Reich
Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein
Sustainability Jobs: The Complete Guide to Landing Your Dream Green Job by Kevin Wilhelm
**Courses and certifications
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board
International Society for Sustainability Professionals
Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures
What causes resonate with you?
Check out UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals