A Canadian Student’s Journey from Graduating to Finding a Job in CSR

csrJBy Anureet Kaur

My friends have suggested that I share my job hunting experience and advice.

I graduated from the Master of Science in Sustainability Management Program at the University of Toronto in June 2016.  As I graduated from a sustainability program, like most new grads I was eager to begin my career. In Canada, regulatory policies were changing fast, and I knew that there would be plenty of jobs coming up for sustainability professionals. I realized that the old model of applying online and waiting for days or weeks or even months for an automated reply didn’t work for me. So I charted out a strategic plan on how I would find and apply for jobs within my chosen sector.

I hope my suggestions are helpful for everyone, especially Millennials who believe that their jobs are more fulfilling when employers provide opportunities to make a positive impact. Here are my tips to help recent sustainability grads move from student to full time employee in corporate social responsibility.

Leverage on your research paper knowledge. This tip is especially helpful for all students who are soon-to-be-graduates. A lot of programs require students to write a research paper on a topic of their interest and how it will bridge the gap between current research and academia. My masters degree research paper was based on Ontario’s Cap-and-Trade Program and how to help the provincial government in creating an effective carbon pricing policy. Once my final research paper was completed, I emailed it to my university professors, professionals and companies who would likely be effected by this new legislation. Fortunately, I received a lot of positive response for my paper which landed me a couple of informational interviews, job interviews and ultimately, a job! For students who are currently interviewing professionals for the purpose of adding value to their research paper: make sure you send your final paper, once itss completed and proofread. This would show your ability to appreciate and thank professionals who have given you their time and ideas on writing a rock solid paper!
Be strategic in conducting informational interviews. I contacted 12 professionals to conduct informational interviews and met with nine of them. That is a success rate of 75%. So what did I do that got me these informational interviews? To start, I created an Excel sheet with different categories for (a) industries I am interested in knowing about (b) firms that operate under that industry (c) CSR/sustainability professionals that work in that firm (d) their contact information (e) and the most important factor – why I would want to contact them. Once I had my Excel sheet ready, I reached out to these companies via LinkedIn, my masters program job placement officer, or anyone I knew who worked in those companies. I was respectful and timely with my responses. I prepared with a couple of questions that would help me in gaining some valuable insights into the industry, the company and their role. These professionals were extremely helpful and gave me some of the best advice I could have ever gotten.

I would suggest that everyone be strategic in conducting their informational interview by creating an Excel sheet and reaching out to companies that may interest them. But please remember, DO NOT ask for a job in an informational interview. The kind of question that you can ask is:
“Professionals were extremely helpful and gave me some of the best advice I could have ever gotten! What advice can you give me during my job search process?” I am applying for a job within company x, y and z for roles x, y and z as I believe these roles would align with my particular skill set and career path. They have a great a sustainability department. I was wondering if you would have any advice in how could I add value in my cover letter that would catch the HR person’s attention?”

Don’t stick with status quo requirements. Every job that you apply for online will require you to send in a resume or a cover letter. Companies could receive about 400-500 applications for one job. How would your application stand out from the rest of them? For one of the job applications for a sustainability role, I conducted extensive research into the company and how they could communicate their sustainability goals to their core stakeholders. I created a CSR report for the firm by suggesting some KPI’s that can be measured and monitored for every fiscal year. I was called for an interview and the first thing the interviewer told me was that the CSR report caught their attention as it was immediately distributed in the sustainability and marketing department.

Before you send any applications, conduct a thorough research on the company and see whether there are any opportunities to showcase your skills through a portfolio, report or even a one- page infographic on how can you add more value to the organization and the role.

Are there any opportunities to showcase your skills through a portfolio, report or even a one- page infographic?

Impactful websites. There are some really great websites that you can use to apply for jobs and read some resources. Some of the resources I used during my job research were: bmeaningful.com, a Canadian-based CSR and sustainability website started by two MBA school collegues and friends. I highly recommend this website as it regularly posts jobs related to social good, CSR and nonprofits. It also has a great blog where the founders interview professionals on how their job contributes to the greater good of society. In addition, the website also provides an insight into Canadian sustainability firms and their organization culture.

Another website that is resourceful and content driven, and that hosts live events is the Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series. They share great stories of CSR leadership and carry many timely articles and white papers of what is new and exciting in the CSR space. I found it quite helpful to regularly browse through the website, especially when preparing for a job application/interview to see what was new trends were happening in the sustainability industry trends within that industry.
Being a good corporate citizen and embedding sustainability into mainstream corporate strategy is becoming a necessity for every company. I am quite excited about all the opportunities that will be created for Millennials and everyone else who are looking to enter this sector.
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Anureet Kaur is a Business Operations Analyst at Internat Energy Solutions Canada, a sustainability and engineering consulting firm that helps organizations in mitigating climate change risks. Anureet is passionate about helping and educating Millennials about sustainability and how to create a career in this sector.

Source: Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series

 

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