Wednesday, April 10, 2013

lateral job movement?

Hey, AAM has a question from someone in the environmental field! The OP is having trouble finding work in the environmental biz. They've gotten advice to look in other fields, such as environmental or public health. So what to do?

The environmental field is a pretty big tent, as I alluded to in this old post. So an environmental scientist can go in a bunch of different directions.

The question is, should you try to start somewhere else in the environmental biz (or even further afield) and then try to move laterally? It depends on how far away from your target you go and how transferable your skills are.

For example, if you are a geologist and and the local job market is terrible because the two big environmental consulting firms in town just merged, take a look at geotechnical/engineering firms. You'll still be watching drill rigs and learning important skills for future environmental work.

Or, you start at a firm that does what you'd like to do eventually, and start as an field monkey (we all start there) and as you get a reputation for reliability and smarts, look for opportunities to move into more technical and management work.

Just keep in mind the basic functions of the jobs you're looking at and how they fit with your experience. For example, environmental studies and environmental science are usually completely different. At my grad school, environmental studies was a social science and was folded into the school of planning/architecture/geography. If you tried to get a job in, say, environmental consulting, you'd have a much harder time than a geologist/biologist/engineer. If you're trying to get into public policy, you could expand your job search to more policy-related positions, which may be more or less focused on particularly environmental issues.

Something else to keep in mind while job-hunting: many idealistic environmental graduates avoid applying to work for "the bad guys" - manufacturers, oil companies, the military. But you'll find that some of the stereotypically bad guys have the deep pockets to actually make a positive impact on their community, and some of the regulators are trapped in a morass of politics. Don't write off anyone too early.

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