5 Tips for Mature Professionals Transitioning to Environmental Work

Angie - Test Knowles, | December-16-11

For mature workers looking to make a career change or transition into the environmental sector, the challenges can be daunting. As several people have noted in their comments to this blog posting and this one, employers may be less likely to hire these professionals due to recruitment programs that favour younger graduates, as well as concerns that mature workers will require more training and higher wages.
The irony of all this is that mature professionals often possess characteristics that are essential to environmental employers. Forty percent of employees in the sector manage people, projects or budgets, according to the 2010 Profile study. With their experience, loyalty and ability to problem solve, mature workers are well-suited to these management positions in which strong leadership skills and accountability are paramount.
Mature professionals have a lot to offer. As a response to readers’ recent interest, I tracked down 5 tips that can help mature workers tap into their unique skill set and maximize their career journey. These are to:

#1: Perform Self-Assessment and Career Mapping

This step is stressed in many career development programs, and it cannot be overemphasized. Taking the time to perform an inventory of the skills that you have developed and the experience you have gained is absolutely critical. For mature workers, many of the competencies you have acquired are strongly transferrable from one industry to another, such as communication skills or project management, so it is important to consider how your own particular skill set can apply to a variety of different work situations and activities.
Free career planning and self-assessment tools can be found here after logging in.


#2: Develop a portfolio

Taking the time to outline your skills and career path provides an excellent opportunity to also develop material for a portfolio. This document of career milestones and project samples is an excellent way to demonstrate to potential employers your unique skills and accomplishments. Since not all job candidates may choose to take this extra step, presenting a targeted portfolio of relevant achievements to a prospective employer can lend you a competitive edge in the recruitment process.
Guidelines on assembling a portfolio for the environmental sector are available here.

#3: Invest in Professional Development

This tip is deeply important for all professionals, since environmental work is frequently characterized by continual changes in policies, practices and technology. For mature workers in particular, investing in ongoing professional development is an excellent means of tackling employers’ concern that they will have to provide more training or that the candidate will be less familiar with recent changes in the sector. Many professional development opportunities are also tailored to the needs of workers who are looking for flexible and cost-effective options, such as distance and online programs.
Several great opportunities for environmental professional development can be accessed here and here.


#4: Consider Mentorship

Participating in a mentorship program is a good idea for transitioning professionals who are new to the environmental sector and interested in building a stronger network, receiving informal feedback on their career development options, and learning about “insider” tips on the industry.
A program developed specifically for environmental professionals is available here.

#5: Actively Network

Networking is another one of those fundamental career tips that can make all the difference for job seekers. As mentioned in the blog posting, How Do Environmental Employers Recruit?, employers frequently rely on relational methods to find staff, such as personal contacts and referrals. Put simply, the more people you know in an industry, the greater the likelihood of finding a good job opportunity. For mature professionals, developing a strong network is another excellent strategy to build a rapport with potential employers and demonstrate your ability to stay in touch with industry trends and stakeholders.
Check out a calendar of great networking events to participate in here.
In addition to these 5 tips, there are a number of excellent insights available on the Transitioning Worker Centre, including strategies on overcoming the three main barriers that workers face when transitioning to the environmental sector. 

From your own experience, what other tips would you add to this list?