Summary: This is the story of how an environmental management professional came to be in his position. The manager tells some of his own story and gives advice for others, stressing the need to make use of all available routes in the job search.
My official title is Environmental Compliance Officer for a US-based fabric manufacturer and finisher. My responsibilities have changed over the five years that I have held the position, but the title has remained the same. Originally, I joined the company mostly as a “watchdog” for compliance with the ISO 14000 standards that applied to my company.
The program already was in place, but the International Organization for Standardization was expanding the 14000 family and my company wanted to place greater focus on ISO 14001, which is not a specific ISO performance standard, but rather provides the framework within which companies can develop environmental management systems that work best for their specific company, their internal processes and the laws of the countries in which they operate.
For my company, that means streamlining processes to gain the greatest positive outcome for the least amount of added cost. The company added another job position to focus solely on the compliance details of other ISO 14000 standards so that I could devote nearly 100 percent of my time to management system development within the ISO 14001 framework.
My current position developed after I joined the company, of course, but I found the original job through academic contacts. I was in a PhD program created specifically to address “industrial ecology.” The program was appealing to me because it stressed common-sense environmentalism, as opposed to the uninformed “save the earth” sentimentalism that essentially serves no good purpose. I could not complete the PhD program because of finances and family issues, but I was there long enough to develop relationships with the academic environmental experts.
It seems to me that my specific interest should be nearly universal among academic researchers and observers, but sadly, it is not. That interest is from the business perspective, and the basic concept that it is far less costly to avoid an environmental mess than it is to clean one up. Another point in which I have a keen interest lies in finding synergy between processes or even companies that takes the waste of one to use as a raw material for the other. So, essentially I found my original position primarily through networking. My own contacts were rather limited in number, but each knew of my business background and my interest in environmental protection from the business perspective.
The single most important thing I have learned about the professional job search process is that it is absolutely crucial that the individual develop – and then maintain – appropriate networks and network contacts. The academic advisers that alerted me to my first opportunity with my company knew high-level individuals within the company. They worked together professionally, typically with the academic providing outside consulting services to the company.
My first job with the company, ISO 14000 compliance, never reached Human Resources until the concept was firm and senior management had devised a list of duties and minimum qualifications. Human resources then receives that developed concept and shopping list of objectives and qualifications, using the list as the core of the job description that human resources devises to use in the search for qualified candidates and in the selection process.
That is the typical path, but it was not the one that I was required to travel because of my academic contacts network. Human resources was in total charge of searching for, recruiting and selecting the individual who took over my initial responsibilities, and used the position requirements that it had developed for what was my initial position with the company. My replacement was hired after finding the position advertised and with the human resources department as his first point of contact with the company, even though I was not.
My point in telling that story is to stress the importance of using a multifaceted approach to the job search, not relying on only one pathway. It is unlikely that I ever would have heard of the new position with my company through any approach other than networking, simply because it was being developed and conceptualized in conversations with a member of senior management and an outside academic consultant with whom I was acquainted. The individual that my company hired to take on my original responsibilities may or may not have benefited from any networking efforts. In the case of that individual, it was an electronic job search and registration with sites that send job postings matching basic qualifications and interests. The human resources department may or may not have sought candidates through other means such as job fairs, but the human resources department at my company favors the job fair setting and may have acquired job candidates in that venue.
If I were to give three pieces of advice for being successful in a search for an environmental management job, the first would be as above. That is, to make use of ALL available routes. Networking alone may or may not work, and online searches alone may or may not work. Since you cannot know which approach is going to work for you at any specific point. Use all available routes to maximize your chances of success.
A second piece of advice is to cultivate and maintain networking relationships. Many people approach networking as a means of getting something. True networking involves give and take, however. Those who are willing to assist others in their own job searches also are the ones that come to mind first when those others hear of something that may be of interest.
The third piece of advice that I have is to speak. Those who are uncomfortable speaking may need to put extra effort into this area. Teaching a community college class, speaking to local civic groups and even just speaking to individuals at networking events lets people know who you are and what you do.