Top tips for environmental graduates looking to land their first role

Despite the challenges of the on-going economic situation, environmental roles are rapidly emerging and evolving as businesses move from simply greening their operations to strategically greening the whole organisation writes Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) development manager Jonathan Nobbs.

There are many diverse and exciting opportunities open to those with a passion for creating a sustainable future but competition for these rewarding roles can be tough.

So what steps should you take to help you secure a role as an environmental practitioner?

Through work with business, training providers, recruitment companies and graduates the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) has a great deal of experience in successfully directing graduates into the profession.

Following the November presentation of the 2011 Graduate Award, IEMA and the award winning graduates are uniquely able to offer valuable and practical advice.

Be best trained

If you are looking for further training courses to build on your existing Bachelors or Masters qualifications, try to find a programme that meets your needs not only in terms of content, but also delivery method.

Increasingly, courses are being delivered in multiple formats – online, distance learning, work-based, classroom-based or blended learning – so there is likely to be an ideal course out there for you.

Look for training programmes that are recognised by professional or other approving bodies; a third party accreditation provides you with a level of confidence about the quality of the programme.

Build your experience

Try to gain experience in the field whether it is paid or unpaid. Get involved in voluntary organisations as this can be a way to get experience, open up opportunities and make valuable contacts.

Be flexible and open to projects that may crop up and don’t be afraid to stray beyond your comfort zone in terms of previous academic and professional experience.

This will be time well spent, giving you invaluable experience of working in the environment, helping you to connect with like-minded people and gaining you a vital attribute on your CV.

Visit volunteering websites, like or, or if you are in England find your nearest volunteer centre.

Environmental champion groups are a great way to get involved at work whilst still in your current role, and opportunities offered by the National Council for Work Experience are ideal for those not yet in a role.

Finally, professional bodies like IEMA have regional networking groups that really welcome new people and their ideas.

Build up a network of contacts

Join the online groups of organisations and associations that are related to the field such as IEMA.

Also, ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, interesting and relevant.

Have you got a catchy sub-heading that sums up who you are and what you do?

Have you posted a good quality, professional looking photo?

Are your education, work experience and extra-curricular listings working hard for you?

Employers often look at LinkedIn and Facebook when they receive job applications so make sure that yours gives a good impression of you.

Also, you can connect to people you’ve met, worked with, studied with and get recommendations for any good work you’ve done.

Face to face networking

Attend every event, conference, workshop and volunteering day you possibly can and chat to people.

It’s usually a friend of a friend or someone from a network that could help you out.

Meeting people at events is a great way to learn what people talk about in the sector, who’s who and for finding out about work opportunities.

Stay up to date

Sign up to all of the environmental news, jobs websites and newsletters and work your way through them.

Read the environmental press, such as, broadsheet newspaper environmental sections, and other environmental websites to keep up to date with the news.

If you are aware of current environment and business issues, take on board what different businesses and sectors are doing about them and understand what they mean for other organisations.

You will increase your own knowledge and be able to demonstrate what you know in interviews, exams or networking.

It will also help you to make an informed choice about sectors, locations, size of organisation and types of jobs that may suit you best.

Resume work on your CV

Make sure your CV reflects all your experience including paid and voluntary work.

Also highlight the key and transferable skills you have gained through all work experience – from summer jobs to voluntary work – and outside interests.

Make sure you include your environmental achievements as well as your academic and personal ones, and if you get an interview be prepared to expand on what you have included on your CV; passion for a role really shines through and being able to articulate that is important!

Preparing for interviews

Do your research on the company you are having an interview with so you know as much as possible about their business.

Relate your experience to the proposed role in the organisation and be clear on how your existing experience and skills will help you do a good job for them.

Ensure you are up to date in terms of the latest technological or policy developments that might be of interest to the organisation.

And, finally, ensure you practice describing your key strengths and skills to a friend in preparation.

Visit to see details of IEMA’s approved training providers, each of whom have had their course methods, trainers and content assessed and approved by IEMA.

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