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Career Quandary: How can I get into climate change and policy work?

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Ben Goodson, recruitment sales manager for ENDSjobsearch, answers a jobseeker’s career dilemma

Question: I have a BSc in environmental geoscience, an MSc in climate change and a wealth of voluntary experience in climate change and sustainability research roles. I am interested in working in climate change and policy research but despite reaching out and keeping informed, I’m struggling to gain entry level work in the environmental sector. I have been working in software testing for the last few years which I deplore. I’m considering doing an economics/law master’s to help the transition towards policy work, as that seems to be the main skillset required. Should I go down this route or what other options should I consider?

Ben Goodson says...

It sounds like you have the right academic qualifications and some relevant voluntary experience for a career in climate change and policy research. Whilst doing another master’s wouldn’t do any harm, you need to ask yourself whether this is really the deal breaker that is stopping you from being considered by employers.

The fact that you’re struggling to secure entry level work indicates that employers are dismissing you straight away for some reason. You may have a CV issue that you need to address. Perhaps you are not communicating your skills and background as effectively as you could be.

To ensure your CV stands out to recruiters, you need to be your own harshest critic. Put yourself in the eyes of the recruiter. When you read over your own CV, can you immediately see skills and experience that are relevant to the role you are applying for? Does your CV have a direction? Rather than listing everything you have done, tailor it to the role you’re applying for.

Highlight the voluntary climate change work you have done and break down what the roles entailed and how they tie in to the job you’re applying for. Similarly, make sure you bring out the detail of your MSc including any modules that included policy topics. If you mention parts of your studies that are directly related to the role you’re applying for, it could make the difference between getting an interview and not.

Your current role sounds quite irrelevant to the type of work you’re looking for so don’t put any limelight on this. Simply list the dates, company and job title and keep the detail to a maximum of three bullet points including transferable skills that you could put to use in the role you’re applying for.

Environment legislation is changing all the time so it’s great that you’re keeping yourself informed. It’s important to continue staying abreast of climate change news. Look at the Department of Energy and Climate Change website for guidance about the industry. Read the ENDS Report which provides multiple channels to build your knowledge and enables you to sign up to relevant bulletins. There is likely to be an increase in demand for climate change expertise in the next five years as organisations increasingly need to ensure they have the right policies in place. You need to communicate yourself to employers effectively and position yourself as being able to deliver this expertise.

By all means, do another master’s degree to build your knowledge further once you’ve secured a climate change and policy role but you don’t need it in order to secure an entry level role as you already have very strong academics. In the meantime, make sure you ask for feedback on your rejected applications so that you can improve on your next ones. Also, research any networking events on climate change you can attend - one conversation with the right person could result in a job opportunity.

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