I occasionally receive messages like this: “I am currently studying environmental policy. I've done research with elephants, noise pollution, and ocean studies. I want to make a positive impact for global climate change. There's so many paths I could take, how do I know what to do?”
Career seekers struggle with a few areas more than others. One of those struggle areas is coming up with an answer to the seemingly simple question, “What do you want to do?” Some struggle with the fear of making a choice. Once the choice is made the pressure of making it happen causes a high amount of anxiety from fear of failure. Others struggle with being interested in too many things. No one environmental-related degree equates to a single career path so even if your degree is in policy, you might find your interest crosses over into conservation or ocean science.
Your career search will go much smoother if you have an idea of the direction you want to go in. Otherwise, you end up in one of two situations. The first is not applying to anything, and the other is applying to anything and everything. Neither lends itself to a good strategy where you make good use of your time and energy.
So what can you do to get unstuck and move forward? Essentially, you need to get past this barrier whether it is from fear or decision paralysis from having too many options. First, you’ll need to balance continually trying to get a more clear picture of what you want your future career to look like and being flexible enough to be open to the opportunities which may take you away from what you originally thought you wanted to do.
My suggestion is working through these 3 E’s: explore, evaluate, eliminate.
Evaluate: The first step involves doing some inner work to see what you’re interested in. What are your values? What type of work would you potentially find fulfilling? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What things are you really good at? What do you get excited about?
Explore: The second step builds on the first to help you discover your true interest. I thought I wanted to be a park ranger when I first decided to get a degree in Biology. Wow, I was wrong! A few weeks of volunteering as a park ranger and I knew this was not the career for me. Reality always looks different in the working world than it does in a job description. Plus, what one person loves you might hate to do so you can’t go on the recommendations of your family and friends or even a career coach. I do not make suggestions about specific jobs to my coaches, I point them to resources and guidance on how to effectively conduct the research that is required to discover your passions. No one else can do this for you.
Ways to explore: Volunteer, research, interview, read, and network - pay attention to what really draws you in and gets your energy up.
Eliminate: This last step is most important to those of you who are stuck because there are too many exciting options in the environmental field. I recommend creating a non-negotiables list. These are the parameters that will help guide what you say yes or no to. Salary, working conditions, values, mission, hours, funding sources, etc. are all elements that you can decide before you search to help maximize your efforts around what you really want.
If you find yourself stuck because you’re seeking one perfect path, keep these final thoughts in mind.
You might also be interested in the ENVIROlocity Career Interview Series: https://bit.ly/2Oc6WdA
Personal Development Worksheet: https://bit.ly/2pMXS5M
-Laura, the Environmental Career Coach