Ariadne's Thread

Environmental Studies at the University of Essex

Tag: Jobs

What do you desire?

by ariadnesthread101

I must warn you that this is an irritatingly happy post in which I attempt to make you feel positive about not knowing what to do for a job. Please bear with me.

We started to look at this question the other day at Ariadne’s Thread: What do I desire? There were about 8 people in the room, and we (okay, you) spent ten minutes writing down what we thought we would like to do after the Masters. I’ll only be able to get to the promised individual responses and suggestions in a couple of weeks, but until then I thought I’d address a theme that came up again and again:

Everything is interesting / I don’t know.

You know what you’ve done before. You know you want to do something different. Exactly how, and what, are where? Who knows. This is fine.

In the next post, I’ll put up a few pointers that can edge you along the path from ‘This is what I already have or can do’ to ‘I have some experience.’ That part is actually incredibly easy. The world is waiting with arms wide open for people to do something, anything. And you’re all here, so you must want to 🙂

But over the longer term, you have two options. You can either just go where the wind blows you, and take the first thing that comes up after you graduate. Whether it is aligned with your imagination or not. Or you can dig a little deeper and find what kind of sustainability-related challenges really interest you.

As I said in a previous post, environmentalism and sustainability span


That makes picking one thing even more challenging if you’re not already drawn to something.

How do you start? (If you do in fact wish to pick that is.)

Here’s 3 things you could try to answer. Answers to these questions can give you important clues as to what sort of work would make you happy.

1. What did you like to do when you played as a kid? Did ever choose to do anything ‘environmenty’ in school or just by yourself? What was it?

2. Fast-forward to now. When you think of all the stuff you could do for the environment, what makes you feel like this:

Is it finding the answer to a problem? Is it communicating with other people? Teaching others why they should care? Helping to plant a forest? Diving in an ocean? What would make you want to hug the planet? (The stoniest troll has this feeling sometimes 🙂 )

What would you do if you felt free to choose?

I’ve fallen a little bit in love with this video where Allan Watts asks: What would you do if you had no money? Which is one way of asking (since money is usually a big constraint). I’m not posting the video to advocate a cashless life, or to eclipse the difficulty between desire and getting paid to execute it. I’m posting it because I believe that challenging as those issues may be, the alternative – (doing something you don’t really like) – is difficult and very uncomfortable.  And I believe it’s incredibly important to live a happy, fulfilled life. People do stuff they hate every day because they ‘have to’ (real or imagined). Imagine for one second that there are no  have-tos in your life. Anything is possible. Imagine that scenario again and again and again, do you return to the same sort of answer again and again (or do you want to do a bunch of things? That’s cool too.) If all you can think of are the limits, write them down and place that list to one side. And forget about them for one minute.

Jobs: Things to think about, stuff to click on.

by ariadnesthread101

I started by writing about what it ‘means’ to work in Sustainability. The magic of having deeply personal motivations for your work, the challenge of ‘living alone in a world full of wounds’. Yawn. Unsurprisingly, no post was posted yesterday. Set realistic goals and all that… We all know that it means a lot to most people who work in the field (or you wouldn’t be here). And that’s enough information to go on.

Anyway so. Here are a couple of small things to take notice of, early on, so that you can hopefully get your hands on a Job+: Work with a sense of purpose, actively chosen and which makes you insanely fulfilled. Please don’t listen to anyone who scoffs at this idea. It exists. It’s worth chasing.

If you do choose to work within the Sustainability ‘sector’, where do you begin? There’s no single correct place. In this post, there are just some super-basic things about the job-market that you need to look at, think about and keep on your radar.

These things occurred to me as I looked at general job listings in ‘Environment and Sustainability’ on the page below, so I’ll use a screenshot of the page to point them out:

Click on the image to make it larger. The full page is here.

# 1. The things ‘Environmentalists’ tackle. This list spans (or should span) every area of human activity in the Biosphere.

It includes big-picture ‘problems’ and broad areas. It’s up to you to think about:

  • What particular sustainability challenges excite you
  • Whether you’d like something ‘technical’ or ‘people-centric’
  • Whether you’d like to tackle ‘broad’ things (policies, strategies, research and development) or focus on specific issues (energy management within a particular company, saving a particular kind of lizard from extinction, supplying x number of people with y number of taps for clean drinking water.)

#2. Functions:

If you know roughly what kind of sustainability challenge (#1, above) you’d like to work on, you can do pretty much anything to help humankind understand, plan for, prevent or solve these challenges. You can do so by contributing whatever skills you can bring to the table. You already bring these skills with you. You know what they are. Use them, so that you develop them further and so that other people really know you have them. Volunteer! It’s good for you. Here’s a place to start.

#3. Dive into the wild and wonderful internet:

Sign up to alerts, newsletters and RSS feeds for jobs. Obviously, the specific ones will be tailored to your specific interests. But good general ones are listed here. And don’t just focus on job alerts. Get involved in the subject! Sign up to the Facebook and Twitter pages of organisations you’re interested in, working in areas you’re generally interested in. Join the discussion if you see an interesting conversation on Twitter. Look at their posts on Facebook.

On a related note, I don’t need to add that the internet is full of advice: here’s a list of stuff graduates say you should do now to get a job later.

#4. Don’t look at numbers of jobs in job listings.  

Environmentalists work with any sustainability challenge, at any scale, in any field, using any skill(s) they can bring. DON’T look at the relatively tiny number of jobs typically listed under general listings. That’s often the first thing people look at. Then you can feel awful, like the sector is ‘limited’, because ‘Marketing and PR’ for example, have upwards of 1000. Ignore that. Seriously. This is how big the potential for environmental work is:

And speaking of that, I’ve talked almost exclusively in this post about responding to the job market. It’s also important to say that you’re not a slave to the job market (though of course you have to find a way to live your life). Jobs are not only applied for. They can also be created. More on that soon.

Hope everyone is having a productive week!

– Zareen

Doing Something, Playfully

by ariadnesthread101


It might seem too early to be thinking about what is to come after the Masters, since we’re only in Week 3 of teaching here at Essex. But it’s not. Time moves fast, and the Job Market is close to not moving at all.

It might also seem odd to be talking about Job Markets in a post that starts out by asking you to ‘play’. But that’s the beauty of environmental studies. You still need a job, or some way to pay the bills and live your life, but equally, being introduced to new subjects and new ideas all through the year means that you’re also playing, a lot of the time. You’re putting together puzzles, and finding your way through a maze 😉 and playing hide-and-seek with insights.

Finding a job can also be about playing. You don’t have to follow a set path. You can move from one field to another, one job-role to another, in pursuit of a goal that is deeper and wider than just a paycheck. In fact, if you’re doing environmental studies in such a multidisciplinary course, I will assume that you want more than just a job. You want to play around with different things, and gain a sense of satisfaction and adventure and challenge.

Having said that, it won’t feel like much fun if you don’t combine that sense of adventure with a plan so that you are actually doing something at the end of the course. That’s why part of Ariadne’s Thread is to develop some kind of personal plan so that you can do both: play within this really exciting and diverse field AND ‘do’ something.

How to start planning, while keeping enough flexibility for change (you might learn something next week that completely changes your life and moves you into a totally new field 🙂 That’s the magic of this course)?

One way is to set your sights on people who inspire you, rather than on specific job roles. For example, in this post, Jacquelyn Gill writes: “I often look at the CV’s of researchers whose careers I admire to get a sense of their trajectory, and to build a rough road map of goals and objectives.”

Is there an environmentalist (of whatever description – that word includes scientists, researchers, journalists, NGO workers, people getting together in groups to plant a tree!) who inspires you, or whose career you admire? Spend a couple of hours looking through their career path (the magic of research on the weird and wonderful internet!). Find their CV if you can, and see what they started with, and how they moved from one thing to another. See what skills they have, what experience they have.

And bring it with you next time we meet!