A day in the life of a graduate sustainability advisor

Rosalind Shirm, graduate sustainability advisor at KLH Sustainability, tells us about her role

Rosalind Shirm, graduate sustainability advisor, KLH Sustainability

How would you sum up what you do on a typical day?

I am lucky enough to be able to say that, as a graduate sustainability advisor, no day can be considered typical. With an immensely varied work schedule, tasks can vary from participating in workshops with project teams, collecting and assessing evidence to help projects gain BREEAM certification, to conducting foundational research for new projects.

What would you say is the best bit about your day?

I really value the day to day interaction I have with my colleagues and the deep insight this has already given me into the industry. As a small company, KLH Sustainability provides a collaborative environment in which I work closely with other individuals who have high levels of technical expertise and a great depth of industry knowledge. This is providing me with a great opportunity to pick their brains about sustainability in the built environment and ask questions about their experience as sustainability consultants.

And what is the biggest challenge?

Initially, the biggest challenge was the process of familiarising myself with the terminology and acronyms used in the day to day language of sustainability professionals. This was helped by the hands-on approach to projects I was given from the very beginning.

What made you decide to pursue a career in sustainability?

Whilst studying geography as an undergraduate, sustainability proved to be a recurring theme that could be embedded in a range of modules, whether I was studying international development, ecosystems or urban environments. I quickly became drawn in by the depth of critical thinking sustainability demanded and chose to pursue this interest further in the built environment sector. An internship that led me to work closely with the sustainability assessment scheme BREEAM gave me confirmation that this was the area for me!

What do you think makes a good sustainability advisor?

A good sustainability advisor first and foremost must be personable. Having the ability to effectively engage with a range of individuals, whether they are industry experts or not, is crucial. An important part of this is being able to talk about sustainability in a way that makes it relatable and meaningful to every individual. In addition to this, I would say a good sustainability advisor uses their passion for sustainability to keep on top of new developments and research within the industry.

What advice do you have for other graduates about to embark on this kind of career path?

I was presented with a fantastic project as an intern that involved interviewing individuals in a variety of sustainability roles within the built environment sector. This really helped me see the value in using every opportunity to talk to other sustainability professionals, whether the motive is to gain contacts, career advice or to simply learn about more about the industry. Having been in a graduate position for a couple of months now, this has been particularly beneficial to me as it’s helping me identify a specialist area within sustainability where I will go on to develop my expertise.

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