6 tips for graduates getting into the sustainability industry


It is really encouraging that so many talented graduates are looking to dedicate their professional lives to help address the climate crisis, however as the sustainability industry grows in popularity as a career choice, it does mean that getting a foothold in the industry can be very competitive.

When organisation’s hire at a junior level, they are looking for potential, this is typically attitude, aptitude, and a willingness to learn. No one has extensive experience at a junior level, but if you can demonstrate that you have gone above and beyond to put yourself in the best position to hit the ground running, this will elevate you from the competition.

Having assisted a number of graduates get their first jobs over the years, and having spoken with a number of Heads of Sustainability on how graduates can get started in the industry, here are my insights to help you start your career. 


A passion for sustainability


Demonstrate your passion for sustainability and the industry in a way that your perspective employer can understand and acknowledge easily by answering the following.

  • Is your enthusiasm for sustainability matched by your knowledge on current issues?
  • Have you been involved in relevant volunteering or work experience?
  • How does sustainability manifest in your personal life?
  • Can you concisely answer why you want to work in this industry using compelling examples? 


Don’t just be reactive, be proactive


Leverage every opportunity. Candidates who take the initiative, and lead their own careers will reap the rewards. Don’t wait for someone else to pave the way for you, here are some points to consider:

  • Do you have a friend or family members with a network that you could tap into? This isn’t just about having a family friend who is Head of Sustainability looking to recruit, it could be someone who could connect you with a sustainability professional, who can offer you some advice on how they got started. 
  • What webinars, networking or industry events could you attend? Have you sent people you met with a LinkedIn connection?
  • Is there a local business that you could intern with or get work experience?
  • What voluntary experience have you done that will support your career?
  • Why not write an opinion piece on LinkedIn and invite a discussion?


Crucially, don’t be afraid to politely ask people for help or advice – you miss all the shots you don’t take.


Show interest


With so many career paths in sustainability, it can be hard to decide which path to choose, but saying at an interview that you are ‘keeping your options open’ does not resonate well.

What does resonate well, is providing clear and compelling reasons about why you are interested in their opportunity and the industry. Do your research to show your interest, read blogs and news articles on the company website, have a look for any articles on edie or business green that reference the organisation. Are there any podcasts or webinars in which members of the company are speaking. How does this company align to your own experience, interests and career aspirations?

When you’re asked why you are interested in the company and what you know about it, use your research to demonstrate your knowledge and question initiatives. Don’t just parrot the “About us” section on the website, show that you have made an attempt to understand the DNA of the company.


Data analysis


For many entry level sustainability positions, analysing complex datasets is a key responsibility, and the starting point for developing practical solutions. Use the below points to help you create some concise answers.

  • What tangible examples can you draw upon for quantitative data analysis? Did you undertake specific analytical modules at university, courses or do this during an internship? If so, clearly articulate this on your application and at the interview.
  • It is important to articulate the difference between counting and collating data and really reading and understanding it. Do you have examples of interpreting data and determining conclusions and communicating this clearly to a non-technical audience?


How good are your soft skills?


Whilst the technical skills for sustainability positions can vary, there will be a number of core soft skills that are just as important. Two that are crucial to a successful career in sustainability are communication and persuasion.

Sustainability is about advocacy, selling ideas, making compelling arguments and ‘winning hearts and minds’. What examples do you have from university or other endeavors that showcase your ability to persuade others into action?

Communication skills are not binary, we can all communicate, but how good are you at conveying your message? What examples do you have of taking complex information and communicating it to a non-technical audience?




For a consultancy position, the majority of hiring managers will be thinking, ‘Is this someone that I would be confident putting in front of my clients?’ 

Show them you are professional at every engagement with your prospective employer. Details matter, from how well you are dressed to how quickly you respond to correspondence and confirming your interest in the role.

And lastly, I wish you the very best of luck! If you follow each of these points and create compelling and concise answers and show that you’re not only passionate, but knowledgeable, you’ll greatly increase your chances at the interview.

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London Wildlife Trust.

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Royal Town Planning Institute.

The RTPI represents planning professionals in the UK and Ireland and aims to encourage the development of vibrant and prosperous places and communities. Our Senior Consultant Freddie enthusiastically attends the annual Planning Convention, and we host several events throughout the year to show our support, including drinks networking and a literal pub quiz. We also keep in close contact with our friends down under, at the Planning Institute Australia and New Zealand Planning Institute. In addition, we sponsor the London Planning Summit, an event designed to address the biggest challenges facing the industry. This is our opportunity to stay on top of the latest changes in town planning by meeting with other key professionals in the sector, while celebrating our achievements.

Land Securities Group Plc.

One of our clients, LandSec, are the clever people behind Girls Can Do It Too, an initiative designed to encourage girls to consider a career in construction. Currently, only 11% of the construction workforce are female, and LandSec are attempting to increase this number by providing education and engagement projects and workshops for girls aged 11-13. Featuring workshops on demolition and tower building, as well as challenging the girls to design a planning project of their own (with a focus on budgeting and environmental considerations), LandSec have proven their dedication to addressing the need for diversity in this very male dominated industry. Ruth assists the project by sharing her fascinating insights into the industry and is even on the project judging panel!

Urban Land Institute.

In partnership with Urban Land Institute we are able to play an imperative role in creating a larger and more diverse pool of candidates within the planning & property professions. Working in schools we take part in the Urban Plan Educational workshops programme, which has now reached more than 2,500 pupils in 100 schools since its launch. Alongside more than 200 industry volunteers engaged across the country, we provide invaluable industry & careers advice to students while guiding them through their workshops and helping judge their presentations.

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