A New Career: Making the Transition

jennifer Bjorkman | February-22-11



For J.P. Brown, the most difficult aspect of transitioning into the environmental sector was “getting a sense of the current industry situation and vocabulary.” The recently employed carbon analyst transitioned from musical services into the environment industry by enrolling in environmental management, but not without challenges along the way.

“My gap in knowledge was enormous. You may not believe this, but when I first showed up to class, I had never heard the word sustainability before.”

Brown overcame these hurdles by finding a niche. “For me it was writing. That’s the great thing about the environmental sector—the number of choices available is constantly growing.”

As he discovered, breaking into a new sector can be daunting. A successful job transition is similar to a trip into the wilderness—preparation is required before embarking.

According to research by ECO Canada, professionals may encounter three main barriers when transitioning into Canadian environmental employment: insufficient education and requirements, the inability to identify transferable skills, and a lack of experience. The barriers are experienced by all professionals, regardless of career level. Such was the case for Dr. Kanwaljit Kaur, at a senior level, and Melanie Fincaryk, who is a newly enrolled student.

Dr. Kaur, whose background is in environmental science, transitioned not from one sector to another, but to a new sub-sector within the industry. At the same time, she also moved from India to Canada.

“For 15 years I worked as a researcher, regulator, and consultant. In the last eight years I made a choice to work as a trainer and educationist,” she says.

Her decision to make the first steps took effort. “Getting to know the work scenario, the environmental regulations of the region, and becoming certified as an EPt were just the beginning.”

To get to where she needed to go, Dr. Kaur updated her knowledge, and made sure she was able to present environmental information in a different way, to a new audience.

Fincaryk, originally an architectural technologist, decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in forestry. “I thought about transitioning for a long time, but didn't act on it because of money and the risk of having to take on a new life from square one,” she says.

Ultimately, Fincaryk was drawn to becoming an advocate for the conservation and preservation of Canadian forests, so she moved from Calgary to Fredericton to follow this new career path.


Overcoming the Barriers

Each of these environmental professionals has developed a strategy that will help them find meaningful employment in the environmental sector.

Brown’s key to success has been to network with as many people as possible. “Attend networking events and seminars. Workshops, such as those provided by ECO Canada are some of the best places to go because they give you the opportunity to meet people in a wide variety of environmental careers.”

Dr. Kaur advises professionals to equip themselves with the right information and training. “Being new to the area, you may not be easily accepted as a professional, but persistence and acquiring local knowledge pays off.”

Fincaryk believes that “no one is ever too old for school or change—it’s a matter of finding what fits your needs and going for it.”


ECO Canada’s Advice for Transitioning Workers

Barrier 1: A Lack of Education and Requirements



Barrier 2: The Ability to Identify Transferable Skills


  • Try ECO Canada’s environmental sector competency exercise to identify your skills and strengths
  • Develop practical examples of how you have applied your skills for your cover letter, resume, and interviews

Barrier 3: A Lack of Experience


  • Volunteer with an environmental organization to gain practical experience that you can add to your resume
  • Participate in a mentorship program to gain knowledge from a professional working in your occupation of choice

You can access full details on overcoming barriers, find information on Canada’s environment industry, and get job preparation tools from ECO Canada.