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Sustainability Job Hunt: A Lesson in Frustration?

I hate to be negative at all, especially right at the start of a post, but I just can’t help it. I have spent 19 years in full-time education and I still don’t seem to have what it takes to even just get an interview for a job in the UK’s sustainability sector.

It’s a real puzzle to me. Not only do I have a MSc in sustainable development, but I also have a BSc in environmental science, two years of experience working with the UK’s largest conservation charity, two years of teaching experience and yet I still can’t seem to get a break. True, I’ve only been applying for the last six weeks or so (patience has never been one of my strongest virtues), but I have been the perfect candidate for at least five of the twenty or so jobs that I have applied for so far and not one of them has yielded so much as an interview. I’m even applying for jobs that I am overqualified for to see if that makes a difference.

It’s especially frustrating as I never really wanted to go to university in the first place, but I was told that if I went and got my degree, the world would be my oyster. Upon graduation I started applying for jobs and I didn’t even get a shrimp. I was told I needed a master’s degree. So, I worked hard, saved up and got a master’s degree. Now I’m told that instead of a master’s degree, I need 3-5 years of relevant experience.

My question is this: if the environmental sector in general is growing, and sustainability is touted as being one of the fastest growing areas within that sector, then where are all these jobs and what kind of people are getting them? Sustainable development isn’t exactly a new concept, but it hasn’t been a specific topic of study in the UK for all that long and it’s still relatively unheard of in the world of academia. So this would suggest that the candidates filling all these new jobs aren’t necessarily formally qualified in the field of sustainable development (SD). Then of course, there is the issue of SD being such a broad, multidisciplinary subject, meaning that many qualifications other than those specific to SD can be termed as applicable, when in reality, they are probably not.

So, is it foolish to study sustainability as a specific subject instead of doing something broader like engineering or geography? Well… Only time will tell. A few more weeks and many more applications will give me a better idea of how wise I’ve been. One thing is for sure. With my studies coming to an end in early September, and my bank balance looking extremely unhealthy, I’m going to have to accept any offer that comes my way, career friendly or otherwise.

Apologies to those expecting an update to my IKEA post. I’ve been on a break for the last two weeks (job hunting). Tune in again next week to see how my project with the furniture giant has progressed!

Freddie Harris is currently studying for a MSc in Leadership for Sustainable Development at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His undergrad is in Tropical Environmental Science. Freddie writes about his current experiences as a sustainability student, giving others an insight into what is perhaps one of the most interdisciplinary subjects out there. He hopes to remain optimistic about the future!


Posted on: July 28, 2011, 3:09 pm Category: The Life of an Environmental Studies Student Tagged with:

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  1. Looking for a Green Job? Make One Instead! – Getting to GREENR linked to this post on October 11, 2011

    […] in July, I blogged about my pure frustration brought about by the job hunt. Even in the supposedly ‘booming’ UK green sector, there seems to be a problem: too […]

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