Wednesday, September 10, 2008

SLAC job searches

As I've said before, I do think that a SLAC was the right place for me to go as an undergrad. Overall, it was a terrific preparation for post-college success. However, the big problem I had when I graduated was trying to find a job. Oh, sure, you can go anywhere with a liberal arts degree, and the school talks up its big job search/placement department. But at my school, they knew about/could help you find two types of jobs:

1. Finance
2. Teaching

Big frickin' help.

My advisor had some knowledge of environmental work, but the school I went to was located a couple hundred miles from where I wanted to find a job. And this was before and all those other company search engines. Searching for "remediation" and "environmental jobs" brought up asbestos removal companies, industrial hygenist positions, septic tank companies...I didn't know that I was looking for "environmental consulting". All I knew was that I wanted to play in the dirt and maybe do something good for the environment.

I floundered around for a little while, took the first job that sounded about right, and was frankly sort of relieved when I was laid off because by that point I'd gotten my bearings. I ended up in a job that I could see staying in for a while - I was able to do actual scientific-type stuff. And I did stay for several years.

I run into environmental consultants from my old geo department from time to time. Invariably, they describe the same problems I had trying to find a job. I still keep in touch with my old advisor, who is the one professor who really helped me academically and professionally. And I repaid the favor by letting him know when we were trying to fill entry-level jobs. Since most of those people worked out well, my SLAC is starting to get a good rep in the (extremely local) environmental job market.

So I'm afraid I don't have any original job hunting advice for new grads in environmental consulting. The jobs are out there, I promise. But sometimes it takes accepting a somewhat sub-par job before finding where you really want to end up.

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