Entry-level jobs in sustainability: an alternative route (part 1)

Corporate Citizenship

Corporate Citizenship have been involved in parent company Chime Communications’ graduate scheme for a number of years, and each graduate on the scheme has gone on to have successful careers with us.

We are featuring interviews with colleagues that started their Corporate Citizenship journey on the Chime grad scheme and their tips for those looking to get their foot on the sustainability ladder.

In this first instalment, we feature senior researchers Richard Phillips, a graduate of the 2016-2017 scheme, and Katie Vrylandt, a graduate of the 2017-2018 scheme.


What motivated you to apply to the Chime Grad scheme?

RP: I was attracted to the Chime Grad scheme because it offered a rare opportunity to enter the world of sustainability. As far as I am aware, it is the only company offering a structured scheme for graduates with a desire to get into the field. The chance to gain skills in marketing and comms through the scheme’s training sessions was an additional pull.

KV: I always wanted to work in the area of sustainability but found that there were very few opportunities for people starting their career. As I wasn’t sure what specific area of sustainability or sector I wanted work in, I considered consulting the best option. Having whittled down my career preferences, Corporate Citizenship was an immediate top choice for me, so I kept my eyes peeled for the grad scheme ‘apply’ button!


Do you think there are stigmas or preconceptions about grad schemes?

RP: There can be a fear that as a grad you won’t be given full responsibilities and end up making the coffee or doing the scanning. This is not the case at CC/Chime. From day one I was given real client work and was encouraged to provide my thoughts in meetings.

KV: A common preconception is that the grad gets all the grunt work. That’s definitely a misconception. At CC, you’re really part of the team and are expected to contribute to client work, thought leadership and business development.


What did you think of the Chime grad scheme?

RP: The Chime grad scheme is unusual in that the diversified nature of the business means each grad is working in a different niche to you. That means when we all come together, there are those in tech PR, sports marketing, advertising and sustainability to name just a few. The opportunity to learn about these other areas and see where the overlaps are is a unique experience that you only get from Chime’s scheme.

As the divisions operate largely independently, it can at times feel you’re not on a grad scheme of a large company. However, it does mean that you feel part of a smaller company within a big one, with greater opportunities to contribute!

KV: The best thing about being on the grad scheme is that you’re never treated as a grad. You get interesting work, contribute to meaningful projects and are able to learn from the experts in the field.


What are the challenges of getting your foot on the sustainability career ladder?

RP: It isn’t easy. First, the demand for entry-level roles outweighs supply. To make it worse, there is a paradox that companies often require you to have experience in the field but you can’t get the experience without already having it!

KV: Apart from finding the opportunity for getting your foot on to the ladder in the first place, one of the challenges is deciding what to focus on! There are so many interesting topics, sectors, services, companies and trends, that finding a niche to focus on can be tricky.


What’s your advice for people starting out?

RP: My biggest piece of advice for those interested in working in sustainability would be to creatively build your own experience in the field. As mentioned above, employers want to see you have experience but the shortage of entry-level opportunities in the field makes this difficult. You therefore have to find ways of demonstrating your passion in other contexts. So whether you have a role in a University society or have a part-time job, think about how you can implement sustainable principles. This will show employers that you not only have a commitment to and knowledge of sustainability, but you also have been able to implement change wherever you have worked!

KV: Don’t be afraid to call or email companies that you want to work for, keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the sustainability space and have an opinion on the things that matter to you.


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