Given the increased popularity of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, a rise in demand for well-trained Sustainability Professionals is evident reflected in the fierce competition in the field. As interest in CSR-related jobs is increasing, we find it useful to discuss how you can find a job in the sector.
The first step is to understand the organization you wish to work for and its stakeholders. Evaluate the company’s performance through benchmarking and identify risks and opportunities. You need to be ready to answer the following questions:
How does the business earn profit?
Who is affected by the organization’s operations and how?
What are the characteristics and issues of the environment/society in which it operates?
Remember the “triple bottom line” approach to sustainability: planet, people AND profit. CSR is supposed to benefit the company as well and lead the way to success. So, knowing how the organization operates is crucial in order to combat competition. This is the key to using the organization’s resources wisely and efficiently.
But you may wonder what the required qualifications are…
The CR and Sustainability Salary Survey 2014 conducted by Acre, Flag and Carnstone showed that the majority of professional qualifications are not restricted to CSR-related subjects since the sector is an emerging one. For that reason, such positions are often filled through internal promotions and are appointed to professionals with more than 5 years of experience as subtly stressed by an ECO Canada study. In such situations, on-the-job training is expected.
However, you do not have to be discouraged. Even though entry-level positions are limited, you can still enter the sector. As we said, direct experience is not a prerequisite. Therefore, if you are not currently working for the organization of your preference and looking for a job, you can differentiate through a strong online present. Go beyond demonstrating a good CV. Share your knowledge and thoughts on relative subjects and show you have done your research. Getting involved in CSR communities and staying up to date with CSR and sustainability issues via dedicated websites (CSRwire, Triple Pundit, 3BL) can prove your commitment. Also, participation in online discussions, webinars and conferences will facilitate the networking process with key people, which is of utmost importance for finding a job. On the other hand, if you are already an employee, joining the company’s volunteering or green initiatives is a smart move.
Provided that priority is given to existing personnel, greater emphasis is given to transferable skills and knowledge.
Work on your communications skills. First of all, you will need departments with which you will collaborate to be fully supportive. You want all employees involved to espouse your ideas. Being influential to such an extent implies that you are capable of tailoring your message based on the target audience and effectively communicate your ideas. Use their language in order to change any negative perceptions and associations related to CSR and sustainability. For many employees, these terms are synonymous to rules and conformity.
Undoubtedly, you will need to successfully practice such essential skills when interacting with top management since there may be conflict of interest. Sustainable practice should be aligned with the commercial success of the organization. Communication effectiveness paired with good sales skills is a powerful combination. They may seem irrelevant, but they are the key. You may not have to promote a product or a service, but you still have to sell your idea to top management. You have to act as a salesperson, being ready to predict and handle any objections.
Finally, a major test for your skills will be the development of relationships with stakeholders. Trust is the ultimate goal and a great challenge. The secret to building trust is interpersonal skills, such as active listening and empathy, and will hopefully result in stakeholder engagement. To this end, a powerful communication tool, reporting, is used. Knowledge on data analysis and metrics is imperative as well as finding common ground among multiple audiences.
It holds true that CR and Sustainability professionals can provide a competitive advantage for companies and specialized education can make you a more attractive applicant.
The Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) as a global leader in professional Sustainability training and coaching has already trained more than 5,000 professionals worldwide and over 35% of these stated that after the training were able to find Sustainability related job or been promoted within their company.