Tamar Schlekat, SETAC Scientific Affairs Manager

The hashtag #careerpivot is trending in my LinkedIn feed, promoted by mid-career professionals seeking “jobs with purpose.” Led by millennials and Generation Z, workers these days do not just want a job that provides a paycheck, they also want a job that has meaning. They want a job that challenges them and provides an outlet for their passion. Most of all, they want a job that is aligned with their personal values.

Luckily for us in the environmental field, all jobs have a purpose. Afterall, what is a more altruistic career path than one in environmental sciences? I am sure that many of us in mid- to late-career had no idea where our path would take us when we decided on a career in the environmental sciences. However, we probably all came to it because we wanted to save the environment from the stress humans inflict on it. Yet, there are many different career paths within our profession.

Often, people assume that a career with purpose only comes from working within a certain type of organization, but that is a misconception that begs to be corrected. Clearly, the three major employer types in the environmental field lie within the three sectors called out in SETAC’s founding principle of “tripartite balance” – academia, business and government. Considering that the principle was recently updated to “balanced representation” to be more inclusive, other sectors that employ environmental professionals should be noted, including non-profit and not-for-profit associations and intergovernmental organizations. However, the type of employer alone does not dictate the type of job. Take, for example, a government agency. A government agency has a regulatory enforcement and policy-making components. That’s not all though, many government agencies also have research facilities and play a large role in advancing the science. Likewise, an academic institute has research posts and teaching positions, as well as staff who focus on the environmental footprint of the institution and compliance with local and regional environmental regulations in terms of waste, hazardous materials, and air and water emissions. Similarly, a large industrial company has departments with diverse focus from research and development, product registration departments, to local regulatory compliance. Finally, a consulting business is likely the most diverse with opportunities to work in a laboratory setting, conduct field work, strive to help clients achieve compliance and, what’s best of all, the clients typically come from various sectors themselves, and the type of work is always new and different.

My advice to those of you seeking a #careerstart or #careerpivot is to figure out what you’d like to do day-to-day. Is it research, field work, policy making, enforcement, compliance, advocacy or management? By the way, the latter is a highly overlooked career path in the environmental profession to the point where hiring personnel jokingly refer to competent managers with business savvy and technical background as unicorns. Once you figure out what you want to do, don’t stress about the type of employer, all environmental positions have purpose – you just need to find the one whose purpose matches yours. To do that, just visit the SETAC Career Center to find your newest opportunity.

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The SETAC Career Center was revamped last year to reflect a global marketplace and to address the needs of professionals throughout their career. Wherever you may be in your career path, whether seeking to identify a graduate program, an assistantship, a post-doc, a job, a collaborator or a grant opportunity, the SETAC Career Center should be your one-stop shop. There are many testimonials of how SETACers found their calling through the SETAC career center, and it is filled with careers with purpose. It landed the author two excellent opportunities, and there are always some fantastic ones up for grabs!

Author’s contact information: tamar.schlekat@setac.org

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