Emily is from Sheffield and works as an Admin & Communications Coordinator for the Sheffield Climate Alliance. She is also volunteering for us at Catalyse Change, helping us with our digital communications and social media. Here she tells us about her journey to getting her first green job.
Tell us a bit about your educational background.
I’ve always been more interested in humanities subjects, rather than science-related subjects that might lead more naturally into a climate career, and before I came to university I hadn’t thought about sustainability in terms of a job. So, I studied History and Politics at the University of Sheffield, which I (mostly!) loved. I have always been interested in the climate, but learning about climate justice and intersectionality encouraged me to lean towards a career that addressed social as well as environmental issues.
I would really recommend that anyone wanting a green career, who isn’t studying a degree that is directly linked to sustainability, joins the committee of an environmental group at your students’ union. Being the Activities and Events Officer of the Sustainability Committee was not only really fun and the highlight of my university experience, it helped me in my career goals and kept me engaged in climate action.
What about work and volunteering experience?
When I moved to Sheffield for university, I started working part-time in a local vegetarian and vegan café. After graduating, I worked there full time. I loved the job, but it was frustrating working in the hospitality industry when I knew I wanted to do something more creative and meaningful. At the start of the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, I took on an administrative role at the café. I also offered to run the social media accounts for the business. This gave me good experience for my current job, and it shows that many jobs can become stepping stones for a green career.
It took me 18 months after graduating to get a career in the field I wanted, half of which was during a global pandemic, meaning job opportunities and even volunteering opportunities were scarce. The job search was demoralising at times. I did a two-week work experience placement at Penguin Random House, in the Marketing and Publicity Department, which gave me a flavour of working 9-5 in a busy office. Then, lockdown began just a week or two afterwards, and it felt as though I’d never find the right job for me!
Tell us a bit about your current job.
I kept applying for jobs throughout the pandemic, and I attended the Catalyst Summit in July 2020. It was advertised to me via Instagram and, as I was going through a bit of a slump in motivation, I felt inspired to join and learn more (but more on that later!)
Now, I work for South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, an organisation that brings together campaign groups, charities, businesses and individuals across the region to engage in creative and inspiring climate action.
My role is an Admin and Communications Coordinator, meaning my time is split between administrative tasks (such as filing, taking minutes, setting up meetings and keeping things ticking over generally) and communications (such as running the social media accounts, writing blog posts, working on our digital climate action hub and loads more!). It’s a really diverse job with new things going on every week, lots to learn and lots of people to network and collaborate with. It’s a bit weird that I haven’t actually met any of my colleagues face to face, and working from home gets a bit boring sometimes, but as lockdown eases I’m hoping to make in-person work plans.
What made you want to volunteer with Catalyse Change?
I currently volunteer with Catalyse Change as a Digital Communications Coordinator. I saw the opportunity on Instagram just as I was starting my new job in January 2021, and I thought that both roles would complement each other. The Catalyse Change volunteering actually allows me to be a bit more creative than I am in my day job and, having experienced Catalyse Change first-hand, I am keen to advocate how great it is to other young women looking for a green career.
What are your three top tips for any other young women looking for a similar green career?
Don’t be discouraged if you are passionate about working in climate but seem to be stuck in a hospitality or retail job. After struggling for 18 months in a demoralising job search, I landed a great entry-level role in an organisation that fits well with my personal values. If possible, either develop transferrable skills in your role, such as admin or social media, or look for meaningful volunteering opportunities to enhance your CV.
Communications goes beyond social media. It is attractive to want to become an eco-influencer, but climate communications is a lot more nuanced than Instagram squares. Think about ways to engage people who are not engaged at all in climate!
Attend the Catalyst Summit, make use of other online resources, chat to other young women and connect through Catalyse Change. Everyone is really friendly and always willing to help!
How did the Catalyse Change programme help you?
When I attended the Catalyst Summit, I had been a graduate for about a year and didn’t seem to be getting anywhere in my green career goals. It was possible for me to attend because it was held virtually, and I accessed a bursary to help pay for it. It was a welcome respite from an uninspiring lockdown, and helped me meet some new people (virtually!) and learn some new things.
It taught me a lot about how my personal attributes fit into a team, and how to use my existing skills to my advantage. I’d never used a careers service before but this programme felt as though it was perfectly tailored to so many young women like me, who hadn’t been able to find the right career support for the climate sector.
How did you find the mentoring?
My mentor was incredible! We were flexible in the way we worked and she helped to hold me accountable. We met every four to six weeks to catch up, and she really gave me some thoughtful and meaningful advice no matter what my situation, from interview preparation for my current role to how to use LinkedIn,
I can’t thank her enough! Even though she doesn’t work in the same field as me, her experience and knowledge of working life was invaluable.
It also shows the importance of women working together to uplift one another, and it shows that so many women who are already established in their careers are more than happy to help others achieve their goals and develop personally.
Any advice for anyone considering joining us this year?
Definitely do it, no matter what stage you are in education, choosing a career or the job search. You’ll meet some great new people, learn some skills, and it will help you focus on your goals.
To find out more and book your place – or apply for a sponsored bursary – to our Catalyst Summit GO HERE