Ways to get a job as an environmental graduate

Graduates may encounter the "catch 22" situation in which it's hard to get a job without experience and hard to get experience without a job. The information below may be helpful to any environmental undergraduates and environmental graduates wanting to begin their environmental career
 
Graduate Programs

Graduate Programs are a great way to start your environmental career when you don't have experience. These programs are predominantly open for application between mid-February to late April. Some will start earlier and close as late as early June so you will need to keep your eye on individual company websites to make sure you don't miss out.

Graduate programs are run primarily by the larger organisations in the environmental industry. They vary in format between organisations but generally consist of one or two years of a structured training program. Each graduate has a particular job, such as a Salinity Monitoring Officer, for which they must complete specific duties. In addition to these daily duties, they receive further training in many different areas of the organisation. This additional training can prove invaluable in improving your skills and building a wide-reaching network. As part of many of the programs, there are opportunities to move around the organisation within the period of the program.

The Recruitment Process

The recruitment process for graduate programs can be quite daunting because it is a comprehensive and often lengthy process. Depending on the organisation, graduates either apply for a particular position being advertised as part of the program, or they apply more generally for the graduate program and are placed in a position once accepted. The stages of the recruitment process remain similar between organisations and are outlined below.

 

Stage 1

The first stage of the process commonly consists of answering a number of general questions and sending in your academic transcript. Common questions include "Give an example of when you have exhibited leadership skills" or "Why would you like to work for our organisation?". This stage is often completed online so check the websites of organisations that offer graduate programs.

 

Stage 2

After stage one, you may proceed to stage two, which commonly consists of a group interview. In group interviews, the employers observe how you function in a team environment and your communication skills. In these interviews, you are commonly asked to give a short presentation on a topic, which they give you on the day, and complete problem-solving exercises as a group. The problems are often situations you are likely to experience as part of the job such as dealing with a potentially contaminated site or organising a budget according to priority projects.

 

Stage 3

The third stage varies between organisations and depends largely on the position you are applying for. It commonly consists of an individual interview with a member, often the manager, of the unit you will be working with, and a coordinator of the graduate program. Questions are usually specific to the position but they can ask more general environmental issue questions, such as "Please define Environmentally Sustainable Development".

The recruitment process for graduate programs is often gruelling and the group interviews can go for an entire day, but they give you lots of opportunities to show the employer your strengths. Even if you do not get the position, completing the process provides a good experience for future interviews.

Volunteering

Volunteering for an environmental organisation can give you the experience you need, the opportunity to learn about the organisation and industry, as well as "a foot in the door" so you're in the right place if a paid job opportunity does arise. Volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded people and share experiences of the job market, pass on hints, and find out about jobs that you may not have heard of otherwise.

Volunteering is also a great way to simply help out with a cause you believe in. Many environmental organisations would not be able to operate without volunteers, illustrated by a great quote from an American movie: "There is nothing stronger than the heart of the volunteer".

If you want to do volunteer work, a starting point would be to check with your local council to find out about things occurring in your area. It is especially good to find out about local ‘friends’ groups who may be involved in environmental activities in your area, for example Frien, s Of The Earth or Friends of Merri Creek You can search for environmental volunteer jobs on our environmental jobs page or view our links page for organisations that accept environmental volunteers

For some recent useful research on the value of volunteering to assist with securing a job have a read of the CNCS "Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment".