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Interview Skills: Landing Your Dream Job in Sustainability

The SSC Team February 7, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Many people confuse sustainability consulting with green marketing – beautifully branded, sleek consumer products designed with unbleached, post-consumer recycled paper products and lots of leafy logos – or with strategic sustainability communications – guiding employees or green teams toward more sustainable behavioral changes through values training and green workplace programs and policies.  

Sustainability consulting includes both of those elements at times, but most of the heavy lifting in sustainability consulting entails using complicated datasets to analyze and quantify activities, policies, programs, and processes that contribute to the environmental and social impacts of a product or organization.

Essentially, a lot of math. A lot of data. And a lot of analysis. And then a lot of strategic communications.

If you’re still with us, and you still think you’re stoked about a career in sustainability, how are you going to land the dream job?

  1. Get experience in sustainability through internships or fellowships
  2. Ensure you understand the work through finding and working with a mentor in the field
  3. Provide work samples
  4. Knock the interview out of the park

The interview is critical

Taking your interview skills to the next level means demonstrating your ability to learn while doing.

By using the 1956 research of Benjamin Bloom to highlight your higher cognitive thinking. This article helps explain how its done, but essentially – whether looking for a new client or a new job – going beyond storytelling and detailing your experiences based on your abilities to analyze, synthesize, evaluation and adjust course is going to put you ahead of the pack. 

How Coursera is Changing Sustainability Education

The SSC Team September 8, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Updated post from the SSC Archives. 

Over the last 10 years, dozens (hundreds?) of colleges and universities have added courses related to environmental and social sustainability. While we love many of them (and have contributed to more than a couple), one of the biggest game-changers has been the launch of Coursera.

We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.

Here are four great Coursera classes on sustainability topics that have caught our eye. Check them out, and go search Coursera for hundreds of other courses in business, economics, sustainability, and so much more. 

 

The Importance of a Personal Sustainability Project

The SSC Team August 18, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives. 

The business world is an ever-changing entity that is constantly being fueled by new ideas and initiatives. One of the latest initiatives is no longer just “going green,” but becoming sustainable. This means that simple recycling efforts aren’t going to be enough. Individual employees at any business can take action to work toward sustainability.

Creating a green team is one way you can send a message of your need to improve up the chain-of-command. But reflect on your personal habits that you could change for sustainability. Consider taking on a ‘Personal Sustainability Project’ or PSP that could help you achieve sustainability in your office. Encourage others to do the same! The idea behind a PSP has been explored by Mr. Adam Werbach, former Sierra Club President, in order to engage Walmart workers in sustainability. His hope was “that if we could learn how to help individuals become personally sustainable, then we might also learn how to affect the two hundred million people who shop regularly at Walmart.” While you may not be working on the scale off affecting two hundred million people, your work toward sustainability may convince others in your company to take on a PSP.
Establishing your PSP means taking on a small project that is something you really believe you can do. Do not try to take on a task that seems impossible. Rather, take on something you know may be a little difficult but something that you can make a habit over time: “Instead of overhauling someone’s lifestyle, we started by finding daily or recurring practices that can express an individual’s values … What are the qualities of a PSP? It is repeatable, inspirational, sustainable, and enjoyable (RISE). At its most basic level, it is a healthy habit. People learn to spot PSPs through self-reflection or through a group session where they can talk about their routines and identify changes they would like to make.” In a business case, a PSP should be something you can achieve that not only helps you but can also help your company work on sustainability. A great example would be to ride your bicycle to work instead of driving your car. While this may not seem like a way to help your business, think of all the areas biking to work can have an influence on:
Reducing CO2 emissions (environmental)
Getting a great workout (social)
Potentially cutting health-care costs and health-club fees (economic)

Where can you start on your road to sustainability? Our white paper, “Become a Sustainability Champion: At Any Career Level has a whole section devoted to walking you through this process and outlining a clear path forward to getting started. Examples are given for employees ranging from general office associates, to middle managers, to CEOs.

Find out myriad ways that you can become a sustainability champion! Download this complimentary white paper here.

The Most Important Skill for Sustainability Professionals

The SSC Team July 21, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

What is the most important skill for sustainability professionals to have? In this short video, SSC President Jennifer Woofter shares her thoughts on what it takes to succeed in this profession.

Need more help with your new career in sustainability?  Register for our online course, Sustainability Consulting Masterclass or sign up for some one-on-one coaching

Free Learning Resources for Aspiring Sustainability Professionals

The SSC Team June 14, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Sustainability consulting is about so much more than caring about mitigating the effects of climate change. We often hear about the passion and energy aspiring consultants hope to bring to the field, but what a good consultant really needs is business knowledge, a solid understanding of the sustainability field, consulting skills, and change management skills.

Of course, growing into the role is part of the process of developing into a senior consultant. And growing requires learning.

If you have a solid background in business or consulting, maybe you need to focus on your sustainability knowledge. If you are a science and data expert, maybe you need to brush up on your strategic management and leadership skills.

Whatever your skill gap is, whatever your job status is, whatever your goals are, you should always set aside some time to learn something new.

We came across this ridiculously good article from Inc. featuring 21 awesome places to learn skills online, and we highlighted a few good ones to illustrate how easy it is to brush up on key sustainability and consulting skills for free.

 Go forth and learn.

  • MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT has offered courseware, learning resources, and syllabi up online for free for a number of years now. Review lecture notes, find the best textbooks, follow along with lab demos on courses ranging from climate studies, change management, leadership, and sustainability policy.
  • Boundless – A company shaping the way textbooks are written and sold, Boundless offers great overview information on dozens of topics to help students quickly understand the basics of any field. From accounting to biology to business, Boundless is a solid place to brush up on a topic you don’t need to know tons of detail about.
  • UReddit – Reddit surprises with some really interesting courses on things that you might not be able to find anywhere else online. Think “Advanced training on Microsoft Excel” or “Starting your own business.”
  • Future Learn – A private company owned by The Open University offering free coursework from professionals in the UK and partners around the world.
  • Free course: Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals. Find out how to integrate a sustainable development strategy into your company with this free online course. University of Bath.
  • Supply Chain Innovation: How Technology Can Create a Sustainable Future. University of Twente.

Once you’ve built your foundational knowledge, come back and get certified as a green auditor or connect with our CEO for personal job coaching based on your newly developed skills.

Free Learning Resources for Aspiring Sustainability Professionals

The SSC Team June 14, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Sustainability consulting is about so much more than caring about mitigating the effects of climate change. We often hear about the passion and energy aspiring consultants hope to bring to the field, but what a good consultant really needs is business knowledge, a solid understanding of the sustainability field, consulting skills, and change management skills.

Of course, growing into the role is part of the process of developing into a senior consultant. And growing requires learning.

If you have a solid background in business or consulting, maybe you need to focus on your sustainability knowledge. If you are a science and data expert, maybe you need to brush up on your strategic management and leadership skills.

Whatever your skill gap is, whatever your job status is, whatever your goals are, you should always set aside some time to learn something new.

We came across this ridiculously good article from Inc. featuring 21 awesome places to learn skills online, and we highlighted a few good ones to illustrate how easy it is to brush up on key sustainability and consulting skills for free.

 Go forth and learn.

  • MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT has offered courseware, learning resources, and syllabi up online for free for a number of years now. Review lecture notes, find the best textbooks, follow along with lab demos on courses ranging from climate studies, change management, leadership, and sustainability policy.
  • Boundless – A company shaping the way textbooks are written and sold, Boundless offers great overview information on dozens of topics to help students quickly understand the basics of any field. From accounting to biology to business, Boundless is a solid place to brush up on a topic you don’t need to know tons of detail about.
  • UReddit – Reddit surprises with some really interesting courses on things that you might not be able to find anywhere else online. Think “Advanced training on Microsoft Excel” or “Starting your own business.”
  • Future Learn – A private company owned by The Open University offering free coursework from professionals in the UK and partners around the world.
  • Free course: Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals. Find out how to integrate a sustainable development strategy into your company with this free online course. University of Bath.
  • Supply Chain Innovation: How Technology Can Create a Sustainable Future. University of Twente.

Once you’ve built your foundational knowledge, come back and get certified as a green auditor or connect with our CEO for personal job coaching based on your newly developed skills.

5 Tips for Staying Motivated as a Sustainability Professional When Making a Difference Seems Overwhelming

The SSC Team January 21, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Global climate science sometimes comes head to head with policymakers and corporations in ways that make us feel like there is no way that we, as sustainability professionals, can really ‘save the world.’

It can be difficult to keep things in perspective. But we must.

If you quit, then you really have no hope of effecting change. And you’re still here, still on this planet, and you likely still need a job. So, find some internal motivation and keep going.

Here is our take on the Six Ways for Staying Motivated When You Really Want to Quit:

1. Practice looking at Things From the Other Side

If you think it’s futile to ‘keep fighting’ when change is so incremental and what is at risk in our world seems so great, look at it from a different perspective. Don’t be afraid to spend a few minutes looking back in time and celebrating some of the that have been accomplished in our world, or in your own career, to feel reenergized.

2. Identify your Intention

Are you going head-to-head with the CEO because you want to win, or because you truly believe what you’re doing will help the company achieve its goals? Look at what you hope to achieve as a sustainability professional, assess whether it lines up with what you’re actually doing, and then realign your action steps so you’re doing what you intend to do. If you have a clear intention, you’re more likely to feel motivated because you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere.

3. Find a Different Way to do Things

If you come up against a hurdle, use some creative genius to work around it. Or just evaluate whether to reprioritize this activity. It may not be the right time to implement a certain policy in your industry, but there may be other areas you can focus on and have equal impact.

4. Lose Your Ego (and your High Horse)

Ego can get in the way of a lot of good ideas. In sustainability, a combination of ego and that sustainability, because of its focus on the lofty ‘world saving’ type goals, can immediately be off-putting.

You are likely a good person and working in sustainability is likely going to make the world a better place, overall, but focusing on that can be so self-centric that you’ll lose your motivation. Instead, go back to the first item on our list, and challenge yourself to get projects going by putting others first.

5. Beware of your Habits

Don’t get trapped by the status quo. Sustainability best practices are always rapidly changing, so get motivated by learning something new on the cutting edge of the field. Enroll in a class or learn to use a new assessment tool. You’ll likely want to run out and start working on applying the new knowledge.

6. Realize that Nothing is Perfect

Whether it’s a big project or a small one, everything we do as sustainability professionals is about incremental change that helps add up to big impact. Nothing will ever be perfect, but don’t let that hold you back. Just get up, get a project started, and then celebrate what you did accomplish.

Staring for too long at the big picture may be counterproductive in any field, but especially in sustainability. Instead, find internal motivation and understand that there are thousands of us, like-minded professionals in all sectors, who are working alongside you.

Together we will create change.

How do you stay motivated? Let us know in the comments.

Trying to win sustainability consulting work? Referrals, referrals, referrals

The SSC Team December 24, 2015 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Earlier this year we wrote about how to broaden your professional network in the small world of sustainability consulting. As you build your peer relationships, you might be thinking you’re ready to start approaching clients.

Maybe not.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review pushes back on the idea of a direct approach.

“Persuasion researchers know that decision-makers will often place their faith less in what is being said, and more in who is saying it,” said Steve Martin, an consultant and expert in persuasion research.

Essentially, having someone else toot your horn is the ideal way to win over someone who doesn’t know or is skeptical of your expertise and value.

It truly pays to ask for client testimonials on LinkedIn, use case study examples, provide references, and in some extreme cases, have someone else approach a decision maker on your behalf before you make a direct pitch.

When you finally do make the direct pitch, list references and high-value contacts and clients up front in your proposals.

“Avoid making the mistake of squirreling away you and your team’s credentials towards the end of an already full document. Instead, make sure they are prominently positioned up front,” said Martin.

What if you don’t have any real on-the-job experience yet? Martin says all hope is not lost. Craft your referral statements in terms of your potential – ask a trusted mentor to write about your bright future, sharp mind, and potential for being one of the best sustainability consultants in the field.

Ready to hone your consulting skills and build your sustainability network? Check out our junior consultant training programs.

Growing Your Sustainability Consulting Business: Making the Business Case for Hiring YOU

The SSC Team December 22, 2015 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Check out this blog from the SSC archives. 

This just in: Nearly 80 percent of global CEOs affirmed in a recent survey  that sustainability has become a part of corporate operations (survey conducted by Accenture and the United Nations Global Compact of 800 global CEOs).

This is great news! As sustainability continues to move mainstream, there should be plenty of new clients crawling out of the FSC-certified woodwork in the coming years.

But that doesn’t mean that getting work is going to be easy. According to a different survey done in partnership with the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Boston Consulting Group just last year, many companies had “not developed a business case for sustainability” and are investing many of their sustainability dollars in maintaining regulatory compliance.

What? That doesn’t make sense, does it?

It sort of does from a business-logic perspective. First, basic environmental protection laws help ensure regulators are pushing companies to clean up or be fined. Second, PR and marketing teams are spending sustainability dollars, as “going green” can help increase sales and reputational value. Then, as some efficiency cost-savings become apparent, the operations team moves in. These elements separately can all be counted toward “sustainability investment,” but that doesn’t mean the company is strategically tackling its move into sustainability by developing a true “business case.”

Why not? According to Gil Friend, founder and CEO of Natural Logic, most people are still “seeing ‘sustainability’ only as a cost, not an investment.” So, naturally they are only doing the obvious low-cost, high return on investment (ROI) sustainability things. This can be especially true for small- to medium-sized enterprises without any real knowledge of sustainability or the resources to tackle the issue strategically (i.e. your potential clients. Hint, hint.).

So the path is clear. Now that you know everything there is to know (See Part 1) about your prospective client, it’s time to develop a tailored “business case for sustainability” that will help you win business by opening client’s eyes to the opportunity that a real sustainability strategy provides. 

In Part 3 of this series, we discuss how to communicate the business case to your prospective client in terms that they will understand (read: shareholder value), but for now let’s just find the business case.

Don’t even think about hugging trees or saving rainforests. According to David Bent, head of business strategies at Forum for the Future, a nonprofit sustainable development organization based in the UK, “the ‘societal case’ does not automatically make a business case.” Yes, there is a lot of societal pressure to address social and environmental problems, but that doesn’t mean that the societal case is going to sell sustainability to a client. Generally, you should focus on what will help the client be a better, more profitable business, and present the societal and environmental benefits as icing on the sustainability cake (unless you’re really lucky and land a socially conscious client!).

Use what you know about the prospective client and pick what you think the strongest business case or cases are. The best news here is that the Forum for the Future has done the hard work for us. In early January, the organization created a table combining key elements of the most commonly used business cases for sustainability. The table, called Pathways to Value, will help you identify how to make direct links between the business strategy of the prospective client and sustainability initiative that will tie in with the client’s strategic goals. To access the chart, click here or type in http://www.forumforthefuture.org/projects/pathways-to-value.

For example, if your prospective client is in a highly regulated industry, like mining, and you learned from research that they’ve just won a contract to open a mine in an area with a large Native American population, they would have a high risk of damaging their reputation, high regulatory costs, and concerns about the license to operate. Hence, you should focus your sustainability pitch heavily on “risk reduction” elements. Yes, the company may also benefit from staff motivation and retention programs, but the biggest payoff in investing in sustainability is probably the area with the strongest business case. And the strongest business case is going to be most interesting to the client; therefore, you should concentrate your pitch on that business case.

By pitching the right product to the client, you will probably have a better chance of earning their business (and, hopefully, when your programs maximize ROI, you’ll look like a genius).

Once you have identified the key business case or cases, it is time to prepare your presentation. In order to make sure you get the most out of every minute of face time, make sure you are speaking to your client in a language that he or she understands. For more about being on the same page, check out Growing your sustainability consultancy business, Part 3: Speak your client’s language.

Enjoyed this blog post? You might want to consider the Strategic Sustainability Masterclass Series. For more information, visit our online training section.

What you know AND who you know are important for aspiring sustainability consultants

The SSC Team October 27, 2015 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

If you’ve been on our website and really want to become part of our consultant network, you know that there is one thing you should never, ever say. Ever.

Don’t know what it is?

Then you haven’t done your homework.

Sustainability consulting is a small world

If you’re trying to break into the world of sustainability consulting, then you need to truly strategize about how to engage with industry leaders, consultants, and firms who are hiring.

A recent article in Entrepreneur gives a round-up of the 10 strategies for making friends with important people in your networking plan.

The first five steps are all about research, reading, and making an effort to truly understand your potential contact’s business strategy and hot buttons. Next, activate your network, stay in touch, and add value to your potential contact’s day-to-day through meaningful communication.

Have the skills (or grow them)

While you’re “working the room” to build your professional network, make sure you fully understand what it takes to be a sustainability consultant. Know your own skill set and be able to describe how those skills will apply in a sustainability consulting roles.

Know your strengths, and your shortcomings

Don’t oversell yourself to a high-profile potential contact, or you might ruin your reputation before you gain a foothold. Be honest about where you are in your career, what your areas of interest are, and make efforts to improve your skills through practice and education.

Learn more about specific sustainability consulting training courses we offer, and opportunities to work with us