Sara is a Catalyse Change mentor, supporting a young woman on her journey as a confident, resilient changemaker. We asked Sara about her own Green Career, what motivates her and what she has learnt along the way.
Sara Telahoun, Senior Technical Officer – Cities, CDP
Provide a brief overview of the path that took you to this job.
Following my Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, I found it very difficult to find a job in the sustainability sector. I eventually took up an Intern position for an online recruitment start-up that did not connect at all to sustainability, just so that I could get some work experience. I interned there for a few months and enjoyed building my skills, so I accepted a paid position at the company. A few months later I started job hunting again as I really wanted to progress my career in sustainability.
With my experience working in recruitment, I was able to find a job at a sustainability recruitment company, where I spent 2 years recruiting professionals into environmental jobs. I really enjoyed the company but wanted to move out of recruitment and began to get an interest in climate change issues, so I applied for a job in the Cities team at CDP and was offered a role that would make good use of the technical Excel and software skills as well as presentation skills I had developed working in recruitment. I’ve been at CDP for over 4 years now and I love it!
Were you always interested in sustainability issues and did you always aspire to work in this sector?
As a child I always had a keen interest in the natural environment – I used to subscribe to Wildlife magazine and loved reading about different species of animal and their habitats.
Due to my academic interest in both Art and Physics I originally studied Architecture at university but became increasingly interested in how buildings can be made sustainable using recycled materials and energy saving technologies. From this interest, I decided to do a Master’s degree in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development
To what extent has your path been directed and driven by you; and to what extent has chance and being open to opportunities played its part?
ST: I would say I sort of fell into studying Architecture because it was the one subject that combined soft studies (Art) with more technical aspects (Physics/Maths) and that’s the reason I decided to pursue a career in sustainability. The pathway into my current job through recruitment was not planned out either, but I have consciously always tried to move into new jobs that play on the experience I’ve already had, while also pushing me further to try new things.
What are 3 – 4 words that describe your approach to your career?
Passionate – I’ve always been very passionate about sustainability and I now can’t imagine working in another sector. I think it’s important to be excited by the work you do.
Engaged – because I love what I do now (which you might not be able to in your first job!) I really enjoy going out of my way to learn more, take extra courses, attend events etc. to build up my knowledge and skills in the sector.
Motivated – sometimes career progression can be very demoralizing when you get turned down, or find yourself stagnating and not able to develop skills to progress. I’ve found myself feeling motivated in those times to learn more, expand my skills by myself rather than expecting it to happen naturally.
Name a skill you consider critical to your work, that you continue to work on and develop
Time management is critical to my work since I have multiple projects on the go at the same time. Knowing when there is too much on my plate to deliver all my work successfully is important in order to get projects completed on time and to a high standard. I am working to improve my time management by recording how long tasks take me to complete and trying to prioritize work each week. It’s a very difficult skill to master but one that is critical to most positions.
Give an example of a job/training/experience you have had that may have felt irrelevant at the time but that you have learned from and benefited from
ST: Working in the recruitment and IT systems industries was not what I had expected from my career. At the time I thought I was deviating too much from my dream career of working in sustainability, and I thought the longer I worked in those industries the less likely I was to find a sustainability role. But that was not true since the skills and experience I gained in those roles was transferrable. I had solid foundations in working as part of a team, working with online IT platforms and delivering on projects, which eventually proved invaluable in my sustainability career.
What advice would you give your teenage self, in relation to approaching your career
Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do for the rest of your life or even for the next year or two. The best thing you can do is use the skills and interests you currently have and take the opportunities you get. You will learn from them what you like and what you don’t like. You have your whole career to focus on a specialist area, so make the most of the early stage to try as much as you can.
What are your top tips to achieving the career you want?
Always work on expanding your skills set – it’s very easy to get comfortable in a job you’ve had for a year or two, but make sure you always question if it’s still challenging you.
Try new things – most jobs will not stick to the tasks outlined in a job description, so take as many opportunities as you can to branch out
Change your approach – if you are hitting a wall with job hunting, question why that is. Don’t keep going with the same CV and application if you’re not receiving responses or interviews.
Sara Telahoun @SaraTelahoun is a Catalyse Change CIC mentor for our 2018/19 mentoring programme.
For more information about how to get involved as either a mentor or mentee contact firstname.lastname@example.org
CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, runs the global disclosure system that enables companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their environmental impacts. https://www.cdp.net/en/cities